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Singing TEI's unsung heroes: plus ... not all the comments we receive are happy grams.

Last year TEI's Board of Directors created two awards to recognize the good work that the members of Tax Executives Institute do at the chapter level or on our committees. The Meritorious Chapter Service Award and Committee Service Award have as their foundation the unassailable truth that TEI would not succeed without the efforts of its members. While the Institute has a solid history of recognizing the contributions of members who have rendered service as President or in another major official capacity (by granting them Honorary Membership) or for sustained contributions beyond the chapter level (by granting them the President's Award), the Board concluded that something was missing--specifically, awards for "rank and file" members whose good work, while sustained and valuable, is more appropriately recognized at the chapter or committee level. The phrase I've previously used to describe such recognition is "singing the unsung hero."

Reviewing the contributions of the first recipients of the new awards underscores how "in tune" the Board was in creating the awards. The Canadian Commodity Tax Committee selected Ricardo Horton of the Toronto Chapter to receive the first-ever Committee Service Award. Ricardo has mastered the intricacies of Canada's Goods and Services Tax and as a vice chair of the Commodity Tax Committee has taken a lead (for several years) in developing the agenda for the Institute's annual liaison meetings with Canadian government officials. I was honored to be on hand at this year's Canadian Tax Conference, where Committee Chair Sherrie Ann Pollock presented a surprised Ricardo with the award, which read:
 In recognition of your outstanding service to the
 Canadian Commodity Tax Committee, the Institute
 expresses its deep appreciation. Your involvement
 with the Committee during the last ten years has
 enhanced the effectiveness and reputation of the
 Institute; in particular, your diligence and expertise
 have been an invaluable part of TEI's annual liaison
 meetings with Canada's Department of Finance and
 the Canada Revenue Agency.


The first recipient of Meritorious Chapter Service Award was equally deserving. A member of the Pittsburgh Chapter for nearly a quarter century, Thomas P. Hartsell has done it all: He has served on as chapter president, chapter representative to the Institute's Board of Directors, the chair of several committees, and a member of the chapter board and informal adviser and mentor to chapter members. (He also served on the Institute's International Tax and Corporate Tax Management Committees, as well as a regional vice president.) Tom received his award at the Pittsburgh Chapter's 2005 Annual Meeting in May. His plaque read:
 In recognition of outstanding service to the Pittsburgh
 Chapter, the Institute expresses its deep
 appreciation. Since joining in 1981, your selfless
 efforts and active participation at the chapter level,
 including serving as chapter representative, chapter
 president, and on the chapter's board of directors,
 has enhanced the effectiveness, reputation, and
 operations of the Institute.


Ricardo and Tom were only the first recipients of the Institute's new awards. Since they received their plaques, several other chapters and committees have submitted their nominations. TEI's other "unsung heroes" will be "sung" in future issues.

It's no accident that Ricardo and Tom became active contributors to their TEI chapters and committees. It is part of the cultures of their tax departments and their companies. Specifically, tax professionals from General Electric and Alcoa (in Canada, the United States, Europe, and soon in Asia) have a rich tradition of being involved in TEI's educational, networking, and advocacy activities. The organization as a whole has benefitted from that tradition, and I thank them, their tax departments, and their employers for the support they have unstintingly shown TEI.

The importance of company support for TEI was brought home to me by a note I recently received from Jim Hollingsworth of the Pittsburgh Chapter. Jim works for United States Steel Corporation, and wrote to inform the Institute of the death of W. Bruce Thomas, former vice-chairman and CFO of U.S. Steel and, not insignificantly, the company's former Vice President-Taxes. Although he himself was not active in TEI, Bruce Thomas was a strong supporter of his staff's involvement in the organization. A separate note from Jim Bodfish (who served as TEI's 1979-1980 International President) confirmed this: "Bruce encouraged key people in the Tax Division to join TEI and to actively participate. He endorsed my serving as President as a valuable substantive and networking investment opportunity for me and the corporation. Bruce's support for TEI was recognized in 1986 when he was awarded the Pittsburgh Chapter's Distinguished Service Award."

The support of upper management for tax professionals to be involved in TEI was also evident earlier this year when George Buckley, Chairman and CEO of the Brunswick Corporation, participated in the Institute's Senior Tax Executive Conference, which was presided over by the company's Vice President-Taxes, Judy Zelisko. George discussed "The Real Impact of Sarbanes-Oxley: Life as a CEO in 21st Century America," and was quite generous with his time, responding to questions from the audience well beyond the allotted time segment. His vocal and visible support for Brunswick's tax department was both welcome and inspiring.

Returning to TEI's "unsung heroes," my last column prompted Curt Wiley of The Boeing Company to write:
 Your article really struck a chord with me! While I
 have not been that active at the regional or national
 levels, other than attending seminars and conferences,
 I have participated in various leadership roles in
 the St. Louis Chapter during my tax career. A career
 that has taken me to Emerson Electric, Mallinckrodt,
 two stints with PricewaterhouseCoopers, and
 now with The Boeing Company. Each time I found
 myself back on the "corporate side," I immediately
 hurried to reinstate my TEI membership.

 I remember first attending a few TEI meetings back
 in the early 80's under the tutelage of Jack McNamara
 of Emerson. I also remember as a young tax guy,
 looking around the room at the likes of Dick Overton
 (Monsanto), Al Wunderlich (Anheuser-Busch), Ron
 Weinel (Ralston Purina), and the other St. Louis
 "old, tax dogs" and wondering why TEI and these
 local relationships appeared so important to them.

 Well, here I am 25 years later, understanding completely
 how much TEI has meant to me both professionally
 and personally. My involvement in TEI, and
 the lifelong relationships I have forged as a result,
 are very much responsible for the wonderful and
 rewarding tax career I have enjoyed right here in St.
 Louis. In fact, as much as I hate to admit it, there
 are probably some young tax folks who now look at
 me as one of those "old, tax dogs" and wonder....


Letters like Curt's are inspiring, but I would be dishonest if I didn't acknowledge that not all the communications I receive are positive. Recently, a member wrote to voice his concerns about the increased "commercialization" of TEI. He wrote in part:
 My personal opinion is that the all of the sponsors
 are over the line. I have always valued TEI as a
 place where professionals can discuss issues that
 are important to all of us. Now, to go to meetings, I
 have to run the gauntlet of people trying to sell me
 stuff and then put up with unsolicited emails doing
 the same. We are all highly paid (although never
 enough!) professionals. I'd rather pay an extra
 couple hundred a year and keep our independence.
 I am hoping we don't get to the point where it isn't
 worth putting up with the marketing to get the
 information TEI is good at.


I appreciate the member's passion about the topic, as well as his willingness to share his views. As the person responsible for administering TEI's sponsorship program, I may disagree on whether TEI has "crossed the line" in dealing with law, accounting, and other firms, but I wholly agree that professionalism is--and must remain--the hallmark of TEI. To this end, I offer the following clarifications.

* TEI does not sell its email list to sponsors. We do, however, grant a limited license to our sponsors to use our lists, but the permitted uses are fairly circumscribed. First, our highest level sponsors (Platinum) receive the attendance list about three weeks before our conferences, with a license to send one email to the group. Second, all our sponsors receive the final attendance list after the conference, with a license to send one email. Third, TEI reviews all emails before they are sent, but we do grant our sponsors significant discretion in how they tailor their messages.

* Our sponsors want to make a good impression. While some firms may seemingly use TEI-provided lists for improper purposes, it is important to keep in mind that there are many sources of email addresses (including the giveaways they host at our conferences). Equally important, my personal view is that our sponsorship program gives the organization leverage to insist on better "behavior" from professional service firms. TEI's Board of Directors has charged TEI's staff with overseeing the sponsorship program, and whenever a member informs us that a sponsor has overreached, we research the matter and then follow up with the sponsors. Again, since the goal of the sponsors is to make a good impression, they invariably respond positively.

* Overall, the reaction from members has been positive. My correspondence's comment about "running the gauntlet" at our conferences is not unsound. The abundance of sponsors at our conferences can sometimes impede the flow of traffic. Truth be told, however, our members seem to enjoy (not just tolerate) our exhibits. We've been soliciting comments about our sponsorship program from its outset, and while we usually receive some complaints, we receive far more positive comments. At the Midyear Conference, someone analogized the "gauntlet" to crossing the border being in Tijuana (a perhaps politically incorrect comment, but one that conveyed the registrant's feelings), but overall, the reaction was positive. Specifically, 27 registrants commented on the sponsorship and the exhibits in particular; 7 of the comments were neutral ("I don't have any problem with it."), whereas 15 expressed support for exhibits, and 5 were negative. And, not insignificantly, the sponsorship program generates revenues that enables the Institute to pursue its educational, networking, and advocacy agenda without raising dues or program fees.

* Finally, we're working to improve the sponsorship program. We invite your suggestions on how to do better.

Speaking of Sponsors

One benefit that TEI routinely offers its sponsors is acknowledgment of their support. To this end, I offer the Institute's thanks to the following firms that sponsored our 2005 STE Conference:

Steptoe & Johnson * Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom * Miller & Chevalier * McKee Nelson * Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw * KPMG * Ernst & Young * Baker & McKenzie * Deloitte & Touche * McDermott Will & Emery
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Article Details
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Author:McCormally, Timothy J.
Publication:Tax Executive
Date:May 1, 2005
Words:1766
Previous Article:European Chapter holds meeting in Copehnagen: May 23-24, 2005.
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