In 2011, the School of Business and Economics announced a plan to resurrect the red tie tradition, which was established by legendary professor Sam Tidwell to celebrate graduates who passed the CPA exam.
The move is part of the school’s ongoing efforts to strengthen and expand the connections between alumni, students, and professors.
“When we maintain communication and create a stronger alumni-student network, everyone benefits,” said Dean Klippel. “The red ties are a symbol of progress and possibility, for the current students, the alumni, and the School as a whole.”
Shortly after the initial announcement about the red tie tradition, a letter arrived in the office of the dean, complete with a red tie—the first contribution to the Tidwell’s Ties program in more than a decade. The letter, which was from Will Thiele ’10, read:
“Keeping with the red tie tradition set into motion by Professor Sam Tidwell, I present you with this red tie. On Saturday, October 29, 2011, I passed the final section of the CPA exam. I received this passing score on Monday, November 21, 2011. The intent of this letter is to thank you and the rest of the School of Business for everything you’ve done to help prepare me for the CPA exam.”
Thiele, who first heard about the legend of the red ties as an undergraduate student, remembered the tradition when he passed the CPA exam and felt moved to contribute. Thiele is currently a staff auditor at Postlethwaite and Netterville. “The moment I heard about the red tie tradition from my accounting professors at Tech, I knew that was something I wanted to be a part of,” he said.
In the months since Thiele reinvigorated Tidwell’s tradition, red ties have been arriving regularly from young alumni who are eager to become part of the School of Business and Economics legacy. Each of the alumni welcomes the chance to maintain their ties—pun intended—to Michigan Tech.
Molly Bush ’07, an accounting graduate, sent in a tie after passing the CPA exam in August 2011. As a senior audit accountant at BDO USA, LLP in Detroit, she handles both public and private clients, performing quarterly reviews and year-end audits. She works closely with partners in the company’s Chicago and Boston offices and is active in BDO’s recruiting process. Bush, who worked as an audit associate and a tax accountant before coming to BDO, plans to become a manager before she turns thirty.
Bush believes in the symbolic importance of the red ties. “Taking the CPA exam and passing it is a huge challenge,” she said. “With the tradition, it allows those who have achieved this milestone to display their success. The ties give hope to students, letting them know that they can achieve the same thing.”
Ryan Lusardi ’10, of Makela, Toutant, Hill and Nardi PC, in Marquette, agrees. “As a student, I always found the ties motivating. They served as a reminder that despite the daily grind of being a college student, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. The CPA exam can seem like a daunting task, but the red ties served as a reminder that Michigan Tech has a track record of success.”
Brett Girard, who graduated in 2009 and is currently a senior auditor at Makela, Toutant, Hill and Nardi PC, adds his accolades to the faculty. “The accounting professors at Michigan Tech do an outstanding job preparing students for the CPA exam. The exam covers more than just accounting, though, and has an entire section devoted solely to business and economics. All the faculty aid in exam preparation,” he said.
As the red ties continue to arrive in the School, the accounting faculty members welcome the opportunity to create and maintain connections with their former students. In September 2012, Joel Tuoriniemi, Liang Song, Anne Warrington, Sheila Milligan, and Josh Filzen wore red ties to class. Each professor spoke about the alumnus who had sent in their tie, recounting their experiences at Michigan Tech and describing their career paths.
“The red tie experience creates real-world connections between students and alumni,” said Tuoriniemi. “My students were excited to hear personal stories about the alumni—it gives them a chance to see where an accounting education can take them. I am proud to help continue Sam Tidwell’s tradition.”
Michigan Technological University is a public research university founded in 1885 in Houghton, Michigan, and is home to more than 7,000 students from 55 countries around the world. Consistently ranked among the best universities in the country for return on investment, Michigan’s flagship technological university offers more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, computing, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, social sciences, and the arts. The rural campus is situated just miles from Lake Superior in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, offering year-round opportunities for outdoor adventure.