In the Spotlight
Excellence in Accounting
UT Tyler Applauds Elijah Watt Sells Award Winner Douglas Brown
June 23, 2016
When Douglas Brown scored exceptionally high on the Uniform Certified Public Accountants Exam, his former professors at The University of Texas at Tyler were extremely proud – but not at all surprised.
The 2014 graduate of UT Tyler’s master of accountancy program won the American Institute of Certified Public Accountant’s Elijah Watt Sells Award, given to candidates averaging over 95.50 across all four sections of the CPA exam on their first attempt. Out of 93,742 people completing the exam in 2015, Brown was one of only five in Texas and 75 in the nation to receive the award.
“It’s a remarkable achievement,’’ Dr. Roger Lirely, UT Tyler chair and professor of accounting, said. “Douglas is the first one in the history of UT Tyler to do this.’’
Brown’s performance in UT Tyler undergraduate and graduate coursework was just as outstanding. He rarely scored less than 100 on a class exam, his professors recall.
“Douglas was in my undergraduate taxation class,’’ Lirely said, “and he was one of those students who, if they didn’t get 100 on an exam, I’d check my work to make sure that I prepared the test properly. He’s just that bright.’’
Dr. Mary Fischer, professor of accounting, taught Brown in graduate school and remembers him as “a superb test taker and an incredible academic. A colleague and I both had Douglas in class and he was a challenge for both of us,’’ she said. “We could not put together exams that he didn’t absolutely ace. If he missed a question, we investigated that question at length because, more often than not, that question was not a good question – it was ambiguous or not well stated.’’
Finding His Niche
Brown said he had a great experience as a UT Tyler undergraduate and graduate student. The Tyler resident began attending the university as a junior, majoring in history with an interest in European and American histories. He took
an interest in accounting in his senior year, while taking business courses as electives.
“I took Principles of Financial Accounting and found that I really liked it,’’ he said. “Accounting is kind of like solving a puzzle, very orderly, things are supposed to balance, there’s a right answer to be had – and that kind of suits my personality.''
After completing his bachelor of arts in history in 2011, he entered the master of accountancy program to prepare for a career in accounting. A staff accountant with Gollob Morgan Peddy PC, Brown credits the education he received at UT Tyler as a contributing factor to his achievement on the CPA exam.
“I am very grateful to my UT Tyler professors. I had lots of great professors and they were pretty rigorous in some cases,’’ he said, noting that faculty also mentored him and helped him get established in his career.
“Some of my professors took me on as a teaching assistant, so I was able to point to that as working experience. And then Dr. Fischer had me work on writing assignments for her, so I was able to say I contributed to an article that was published. They really helped build my resume.’’
Fischer said Brown wrote an excellent graduate research paper she thought should be submitted for publication.
“I first became aware of his breadth of knowledge when he wrote a paper on an issue that was percolating in Texas about water rights. At that point in time, someone was using water out of the Edwards Aquifer down in Austin. There was a concern that this was reducing the aquifer too quickly, but there were no laws that precluded this type of usage,’’ Fischer said.
“I suggested to Douglas that he investigate Texas water – the rights, the privileges, the laws, what could and could not be done. And he absolutely did a phenomenal job. It needed expansion and polishing, so I asked if he were willing for me to take his work and do that with the intent to submit it for publication.’’
The new version of the paper, titled “Water Woes: A Critical Texas Situation,’’ was accepted for publication in Oil, Gas & Energy Quarterly. In addition, Brown’s original paper, “Texas Water Ownership,’’ was accepted for presentation as a concurrent research paper at the 2014 Southwest American Accounting Association’s regional meeting in Dallas, Fischer said.
“His presentation at the meeting in Dallas was made to a room of my peers, predominantly accounting professors, and Douglas put UT Tyler on the map. He did an incredible presentation that surpassed the presentation of a number of academics for whom that was their professional outlet,’’ she said.
“He’s bright and I wish him all the success in the world, and I think he has an incredible number of attributes that even he hasn’t found yet.’’