When Marty Brown (HCB, ’85) took his first accounting class from professor Dick Townsend, he hadn’t decided what he wanted to do after graduation. He credits Townsend’s genuine compassion for his students and skill at teaching complex accounting concepts with setting him on his career path.
“There are UT accounting grads all over the country who have benefited from his kindness and leadership,” Brown, who is now president and CEO of PYA, says.
That legacy is why Brown felt it was important for PYA to make the leadership gift in the fundraising effort for the Richard L. Townsend Chair of Accounting, the first endowed chair for the college’s Department of Accounting and Information Management (AIM).
Townsend has had an impact on many of PYA’s partners and clients, and the company regularly recruits Haslam AIM students.
“We’re so proud of the accounting program and what it has become over these last decades,” Brown says. “The current stewards of that department have benefited greatly from past leadership.”
As the current head of Haslam’s AIM department, Terry Neal is the first person to hold the new chaired professorship.
“We are very excited that our first chaired professorship in AIM is named after Dick, and we are so appreciative of the incredible number of his former students who have contributed to make the Richard L. Townsend Chaired Professorship of Accounting a reality,” Neal says.
The endowment comes as the result of a grassroots fundraising campaign from Townsend’s former students. In 2009, hundreds of alumni contributed toward an endowment in honor of Townsend’s 42-year career at UT. That effort grew quickly, and in 2015, the campaign committee organized a successful push to fund a professorship. In 2020, a new campaign kicked off to upgrade the professorship to the AIM department’s first chair.
The highest faculty award a professor can hold, a chair requires a minimum endowment of $2 million. To reach this goal, the campaign committee reached out to alumni for gifts of any size. PYA pledged a leadership gift of $100,000, and dozens of alumni contributed $5,000 or more.
“It would be hard to imagine another UT accounting faculty member who has impacted more students—accounting and otherwise —over their career than Dick Townsend,” says Neal.