How I discovered that I was the Second Member of My Family to Work for Arthur Andersen
By Ralph G. Moore, Andersen Alumnus
My name is Ralph G. Moore. I worked in the Chicago Office of AA & Co. from July, 1971 to November, 1973. I was the 10th African-American staff member ever hired by the Chicago Office. I have a degree in Accounting from Southern Illinois University and I successfully sat for the November, 1972 CPA exam which earned me the distinction of being among the first 100 black CPAs certified in the history of the State of Illinois.
My entire family was very proud that I was recruited by Arthur Andersen as I was only the second extended family member ever to graduate from college. My late Aunt Virginia was especially proud and the Sunday before my first day she requested that when I get to the office that I look up Leonard Spacek and “tell him that Ginny said hello”. I was slightly puzzled by her request for a number of reasons including that at that time I had no knowledge of Leonard Spacek and how he was one of the most important partners in the history of the firm. Nevertheless, after the traditional first-day-lunch at the Union League Club with Paul Briggs (Lead Personnel Partner for many years) I made my way up to the 35th Floor of the Brunswick Building (69 West Washington) and asked for “Mr. Spacek”.
He came out of his office, shook my hand and insisted that I call him Leonard, but he was obviously curious about why I was there. I told him that my Aunt, Virginia Cunningham, had asked me to say hello for her. He had an amazed look on his face and smiled then almost teared up and responded, “Ginny is your aunt?” Then he paused and shook my hand again and said in that big, booming voice of his, “My God! We have come a long way!”
What I subsequently discovered was that my Aunt Virginia was Arthur Andersen’s live-in maid at his residence in a North Shore suburb for the 12-year period, 1935 until his death in 1947. For the next several minutes Leonard shared stories of how he got to know her over the years during the many business meetings held at the Andersen residence. He wrote a personal note to my aunt in a copy of the book, The First Fifty Years of Arthur Andersen. He also shared that he had not seen “Ginny” since Arthur Andersen’s funeral in 1947.
My aunt was very grateful to have received the book and note from Leonard. When I asked her why she had not shared her story about working for “Mr. Andersen” with me previously, her response was that she wasn’t sure if it was “the same Arthur Andersen”. To put this matter in perspective, my aunt Virginia knew that Mr. Andersen had a successful accounting firm, but she had no idea of the firm’s size and scope. She was just a proud aunt celebrating that her nephew had “got on” with Mr. Andersen’s accounting firm in downtown Chicago!
As I reflect on this unlikely connection that my family experienced with Arthur Andersen, I must also share how that brief tenure at Andersen transformed my life. Although I excelled as an accounting student at Southern Illinois University, I had no exposure to working in an environment where I would be interacting with senior financial executives of Fortune 500 corporations.
Arthur Andersen enabled a 22-year-old kid from Evanston, IL to acquire skills not covered in college text books. As most of the older alums reading can attest, the guidance covered everything from how to dress when traveling to where to eat (and not to eat!) lunch. Other life lessons acquired while at Andersen include the following:
- Always consider the “big picture” while engaged in the audit process.
- Study process flow when analyzing transactions.
- Never ask “What should I do?”, but rather present two possible courses of action for consideration.
- Client representatives do not know exactly what auditors do so you must always maintain a professional appearance and decorum that underpins your value.
I saw “Leonard” a few weeks later after first meeting at the initial three-week training at St. Charles and he said something to our group which continues to resonate with me. He said (paraphrasing):
“To be recognized as a subject matter expert in any area you must know more about that area than anyone else in your field. That is what the firm (Arthur Andersen & Co.) did in the area of utility accounting in the early years and why we continue to enjoy leadership in the utility industry and many others.”
I leveraged these and many more lessons learned from my tenure at Arthur Andersen to establish a successful consulting practice, RGMA in 1979. Our focus is minority and women business development and supplier diversity and I am considered one of the top subject matter experts in the area.
An important footnote to this experience occurred 20 years later while I was serving on the board of Junior Achievement of Chicago. As a member of the committee that nominated laureates for JA’s Chicago Business Hall of Fame, I proudly submitted the name of Leonard Spacek for consideration and he was inducted, posthumously, as a member in 1991.
When I share this story with Andersen alums they are always amazed so I thought I would share it with the Alumni Newsletter. The fact of the matter is that I was the second person in my family to work for Arthur Andersen!