Colleagues, accounting alumni lead scholarship drive to honor Zehms

Karl ZehmsKarl Zehms retired in May 2007 as associate professor emeritus of accounting after a remarkable, 37-year career.

His reputation — as someone who could be warm and generous as a mentor but exacting, driven and tough in the classroom — remains so strong today it continues to pay dividends for the UW-Green Bay accounting program he founded.

A few of his former students, along with friends, colleagues and local business leaders, have initiated a fund drive to create a permanent Karl Zehms Accounting Scholarship Endowment. Their campaign has thus far raised about $40,000 in donations.

If, as organizers hope, the contributions keep rolling in between now and year’s end as additional alumni are invited to participate, the result will be a number of $1,500 merit scholarships each year. The awards will go to new and continuing students who distinguish themselves as the program’s best.

Daniel Young, Class of 1980, is managing shareholder of the Green Bay office of Schenck Business Solutions, and a leader of the scholarship campaign.

Karl Zehms“Over the years as I bump into former accounting classmates, Karl’s name always comes up,” Young says. “Usually the content of the discussion goes something like ‘God, he was tough, but that’s why we liked him’ or ‘He made me the professional I am today.’

“Karl was a demanding instructor but — in kind of the same way some of us might not have fully appreciated our parents until after we moved out of the house — you didn’t truly understand why until you made it through the course. He gave tough exams, but I tell you what, those exams really prepared you for successfully passing the CPA exam.”

Young says Schenck recruits heavily at UW-Green Bay because of the program’s excellent reputation established under his former teacher.

Zehms often expressed pride that his UW-Green Bay students typically fared well above national averages in their first-time pass rate on the CPA exam. Their level of achievement is also borne out by alumni who make up a virtual who’s who of accounting and business leaders. Graduates run their own businesses, contribute to the success of major regional employers and even hold COO and president jobs with Fortune and Forbes 500 companies.

An early promoter of the scholarship in Zehms’ name was marketing faculty member Don McCartney, for many years a colleague.

“It’s a way to show appreciation for Dr. Zehms in recognition of everything he has done over his career,” says McCartney. He notes that Zehms was chair of Business Administration for 16 years, at a time when it was UW-Green Bay’s most heavily-enrolled program.

He says another goal is to guarantee the future of the accounting program by continuing to attract and retain a high level of talented students. The endowment helps signal community and institutional commitment to maintain a top-rated program, which could also aid in faculty recruitment.

About 1,200 individuals majored in accounting and earned bachelor’s degrees during Zehms’ tenure at UW-Green Bay.

Letters are going out this month to accounting graduates to inform them of the scholarship campaign. If you would like more information, contact Dan Spielmann in the Office of University Advancement at