Paper Trail: 4 Accountants to Follow

Chances are you know a few accountants-turned-famous: Crime thriller novelist John Grisham, easy listening sensation Kenny G and world famous actor Bob Newhart all worked as accountants before launching their more artistic careers. But what about accountants that are famous for, well, accounting? Where are their nods of fame? A number of publications and accounting organizations honor and acknowledge accounting's brightest and most innovative practitioners each year, but unless you are a working accountant or a financial junkie they may fly under your radar. At least until you stumbled upon this article.

The field of accounting is so large and diverse that acknowledging every great contributor would be a massive undertaking. So instead of giving you an encyclopedia of names, we've highlighted just four of the field's most influential professionals, each chosen for their notable and ongoing contributions to the field. In other words, if you want to know what is really happening in the field, follow these names.

1. David M. Walker

David Walker is a CPA, but you may know him as the former Comptroller General of the United States under Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. As head of the Government Accountability Office for 10 years, Walker served as the federal government's chief auditor. He may have left his post in 2008, but that resignation marked a transformation, not an end to his financial career. Today, Walker heads the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, conducting town hall meetings around the country with some of business's biggest names. How big? Try Warren Buffet and Alan Greenspan on for size. Walker has also penned a number of articles and editorials for Fortune Magazine, the Financial Times and CNN, to name a few. In 2008, Walker was awarded the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants' highest award, the Gold Medal Award of Distinction.

2. Caleb Newquist

If you want to keep up with the latest accounting news, Caleb Newquist is your name. His resume is extensive, highlighting his tenures as senior financial analyst, senior associate, accounting associate and even adjunct professor, but today he is probably best known as the founding editor for Going Concern, a well respected accounting news blog. Newquist also ranked among Accounting Today's 2011 Top 100 Most Influential People in the field.

3. Thomas R. Dyckman

Thomas Dyckman serves as Professor Emeritus of accountancy at Cornell University, and is known both for his excellent teaching and his research. He is a two-time winner of the AICPA Accounting Research Literature Award thanks to his numerous publications, which touch upon: alternative accounting techniques, the economic consequences of accounting policy, the behavioral effects of accounting and more. Dyckman has also served on the Financial Accounting Foundation and the Financial Accounting Standards Advisory Committee. Dyckman is no longer practicing accounting in the traditional sense, but he continues to conduct and publish research in a wide breadth of accounting topics, making him a must-follow for future accountants who want to keep in the know.

4. Geni Whitehouse

From accounting software to online CPA degrees, computers have revolutionized the field of accounting. Nobody understands that better than Geni Whitehouse. Her title? Countess of Communication for her site, Even a Nerd Can Be Heard. She is also a CPA and consulting member of Brotemarkle, Davis and Co. According to Accounting Today -- who lists her among their Top 100 Most Influential Accountants of 2011 -- Whitehouse "brought cool" to being a tech-savvy CPA. This self-described "nerd" serves as a consultant to accounting, business software and marketing companies who need a bit of training in communication and high-tech accounting.

Becoming a notable accountant

The accountants featured here are all known for their impressive resumes -- careers that all started in a classroom. Not everyone who attends CPA degree programs will go on to hold government offices or become academic superstars, but they can have fulfilling (and lucrative) careers. Now, thanks to accelerated offerings, online CPA degree programs and other unique coursework, launching yours is more convenient than ever.

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