Student Essay Contest

Ms. Lynn Pippenger: Adding It Up from Accounting to Finance Executive

2010 AWM Essay Contest: Grand Prize Winner

By: Honor Lucy Adamson Bailey, St. Petersburg High School, Largo, FL

With her hands linked modestly in her lap, Lynn Pippenger might hoodwink you into thinking she’s demure. Her unassuming stature and petite handshake are politely pedestrian. But when she rolls her eyes back in thought—searching for a memory—and her mouth twinkles into a smile, you’re liable to give up first impressions forever. Ms. Pippenger has no need to fill the room because her stories quickly do that for her. The breadth of her experience and the depth of her knowledge are paradigms for any woman interested not only in accounting, computer science, economics, and finance, but in uniting the entire scope of mathematics within a single career.
Ms. Pippenger was born a second generation Floridian and raised in St. Petersburg. Although her mother was an artist, Ms. Pippenger showed a predilection for the beauty of numbers from the beginning. At eight, her CPA neighbor taught her how to balance a checkbook—a handy skill that has served her well ever since.
She attended St. Petersburg College for two years and then finished her degree at the University of South Florida, taking classes by night and working by day to fund her education. She later returned to her second alma mater for an MBA in the Executive MBA program, in which she “scrunched into twenty-two months” the last of an educational background which would propel her through a 49-year career.
Ms. Pippenger found her first job as a grocery clerk (“long before we had the beep beeps!”) and soon became both the cash audit and internal audit for the store. She then worked in two small loan companies as a full charge bookkeeper before taking her job with Raymond James in 1969, where she worked full time (a staggering 50 hours a week) while still attending school at night. At Raymond James, one of the top diversified holding financial companies in the nation, she has one of the longest tenures in the business (second only to the founder’s son).
When she was first hired, Raymond James was simply a small upstart company. Her philosophy was, “Whatever needed to be done, I did.” Her willingness to accept responsibilities beyond her job as a payroll clerk, and to experiment outside the realm of her previous experience, were the character traits that propelled her to her current standing as the Internal Consultant and Treasurer of Raymond James. Such titles, however, hardly scratch the surface of Ms. Pippenger’s expertise with the company. After moving out of the accounting department, she managed all of Operations and Information Technology, created the Human Resources Department, and managed Trading Inventories limits for the Investment Banking, and Fixed Income Departments. She also pioneered the company’s print shop, launched the famous Stock Market Game throughout the state of Florida, introduced the first PC to Raymond James (which is now enshrined in a glass case in the lobby), and initiated the company’s switch from the COBOL computer language to table-driven systems. She served as the company’s Director, Corporate Secretary, Treasurer, and ultimately the Chief Financial Officer.
Reducing her duties as she moves towards retirement, Ms. Pippenger now does special projects in the IT department, where she often reaches down to the field level in the process of designing new computer systems. In her current project, she’s utilizing the same skills she treasured as an accountant to design a new system to balance the customer’s debit and credit accounts. Such assignments require Ms. Pippenger to expand upon her knowledge of mathematics, and are another example of her self-motivated journey into the new capabilities of technology.
When not tackling a fresh technological innovation, Ms. Pippenger traces the lineage of her family using the resources of the Largo Public Library (towards which she has been a respected community philanthropist). She can proudly trace her family back 350 years in America. Six of her great-great grandfathers were either engineers, accountants, clerks, or auditors, so Ms. Pippenger can confidently claim that it’s “in [her] genes to do accounting!”
In her journey from a grocery clerk to the highest echelons of Raymond James, Ms. Pippenger has followed her early love for accounting in many diverse and inventive reincarnations. Her motto is, “Whatever comes my way!” Today, many students aspiring to achieve the feats of Ms. Pippenger may assume they need to attend the most prestigious schools and have the most elite connections. Ms. Pippenger, however, has proven that self-initiative is the true key to success. Ms. Pippenger does not simply learn and copy: she innovates. When asked what type of math she uses in her job, Ms. Pippenger giggles bashfully and modestly says, “Well, I guess I add, subtract, multiply and divide!” Perhaps that’s how her career first began. But Ms. Pippenger’s journey through mathematics has evolved into something much greater.
About the Student:
As a senior at St. Petersburg High School in Florida, I’m relishing the last few months before moving up to the chilly North where I will attend Columbia University. I enjoy theatre, debate, English tutoring, traveling, and writing. I’ll look back fondly on my high school activities, including being the president of the St. Pete High GSA, founding a classic film club, acting as the debate team captain, and performing as the first violist in three orchestras. Recently I’ve also discovered my love for Statistics and the fascinating link between math and music