News from the Richard C. Adkerson School of Accountancy

An Eye to the Future

Don Whitmire

Don Whitmire values the impact of those who took an interest in his education, and he now does the same for MSU accounting students.

When the 1978 accounting alumnus arrived at Mississippi State as a freshman, he was uncertain what his major would be. A man in his family’s church introduced him to his CPA, a tax attorney, and that conversation sparked an interest that led Whitmire to pursue accounting.

“The School of Accountancy faculty at that time – Bill Simmons, Scotty Wofford, Bill Curry, Dora Herring and others – were all practitioners who kept companies’ books, did audits, prepared tax returns and actually did the ‘nuts and bolts’ things accountants begin their careers doing,” recalls Whitmire. “Each of them knew what they taught because they had actually done those things. In addition, they were outstanding teachers, as evidenced by the very long list of successful graduates they taught over a 40-plus year period.

“I have always been keenly aware of how the man at my church, his CPA, the School of Accountancy faculty and others invested in me, which resulted in the many opportunities I’ve had in my career,” he continues. “As a consequence, I’ve always believed it’s very important that each of us give back, and so when I was approached about being a part of the School of Accountancy Advisory Council many years ago, I was very glad to do so.”

Whitmire, who is the Vice President and Controller for Freeport-McMoRan Inc. in Phoenix, is now chairman of the ASAC Advisory Council. He believes that the board must focus on understanding the strengths and challenges being faced and support the School’s leadership in addressing them.

“Like many professions, accounting has undergone tremendous change in the past decade,” he observes. “Accountants today increasingly are called to spend less time preparing financial data and instead are asked to analyze that data and provide business insights to management and others, and they have to master a broad knowledge base and multiple technologies in doing so. Currently, there is increasing interest in reporting non-financial data, and there’s every reason to expect accountants will be heavily involved in this area going forward. Likewise, the demands for and complexity of tax accounting and reporting have also increased during this time.”

One way in which the Council is supporting ASAC Director Dr. Shawn Mauldin and the faculty in meeting these marketplace demands is by aiding in a strategic planning effort during the fall that will culminate with a retreat in December. Information will be gathered from stakeholders including faculty, practitioners, students and others to help develop a plan that will ensure the School is prepared for the future. A strategic plan is required for periodic accreditation, which for ASAC will occur next year.

The Advisory Council is just one of many conduits through which Whitmire and his family have contributed to the future of Mississippi State students. He and his wife have endowed student scholarships and the Don & Peggy Whitmire Fellowship, as well as ASAC’s “ASAP” accounting camp for high school students. An alumnus of MSU’s Honors College, Whitmire also serves on the Shackouls Honors College Advisory Board. He has been recognized as the 2010 College of Business (COB) Alumni Fellow and a member of the College of Business Centennial 100 for 100 Distinguished Alumni.

The Whitmire family has lived in and traveled to many places around the world, with Don finding cowbells and bulldog figurines along the way for his collection. But Mississippi State will always feel like home. Sons Brian, Paul and Mark are proud alumni and, in their father’s words, “highly energetic Bulldog fans!”

“Except for ‘COVID Year 2020,’ the past 20-plus years have seen exciting times in StarkVegas!” Whitmire states. “The positive leadership of [MSU President] Dr. Mark Keenum, COB Dean Sharon Oswald, Dr. Mauldin and so many others, the growth in the student body, the high level of enthusiasm and engagement by alumni and friends of the University all are key ingredients that make Starkville our second home – both figuratively and literally – for us and our sons.”