CFO of the Year Awards 2010

November 4, 2010
5:00 pm
Past Event

The Arizona Chapter of Financial Executives International (FEI) held its fourth annual CFO of the Year Awards on Nov. 4. FEI Arizona presents the CFO of the Year Awards to financial professionals for outstanding performance in their roles as corporate financial stewards. The nominations and awards recognize exemplary financial management in all types of businesses: public, private and nonprofit. An impressive set of independent judges from local business and academia selected the winners based on their contributions to their respective organizations and their involvement in the community. The following CFOs were honored at the event:


Nonprofit CFO of the Year

Mary Jane Rynd Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Virginia G. Piper Charitable TrustMary Jane Rynd
Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer
Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust


The talent and drive that Mary Jane Rynd put into becoming the first female partner of a national accounting firm in Arizona is now benefiting one of the state’s largest nonprofits.

As executive vice president and chief financial officer, Rynd she oversees the investment management of the approximately $500 million endowment of the Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust. She also supervises the trust’s investment consultants and staff in the investment committee of the board of trustees.

For more than a decade before Virginia Piper’s death, Rynd served as the philanthropist’s tax adviser. As a result, Rynd has a full understanding of Piper’s approach to her philanthropy — and translates that every day into the work and spirit of the trust.

“I think I’m really lucky, because the people that I work with are highly motivated, extremely good professionals,” Rynd said.

Among her achievements at the trust is the identification, purchase and complete renovation of the nonprofit’s current offices. Over the past four years, she also has managed the diversification of the trust’s investment portfolio.

Private Company CFO of the Year

Tim Einwechter Chief Financial Officer Ascent Healthcare SolutionsTim Einwechter
Chief Financial Officer
Ascent Healthcare Solutions


In his 13 years as chief financial officer, Tim Einwechter has guided his company from a small startup to the $160 million corporation it is today.

When Einwechter began his tenure at the company that was then known as Alliance, he had to deal with cash shortages and other various financial struggles. He aggressively pursued investment capital that allowed the medical device company to take advantage of opportunities in its market. He also initiated a merger in 2005 that allowed the organization to continue growing, and played a key role when Stryker Inc. acquired the company, now known as Ascent Healthcare Solutions, in 2009.

“Life as CFO is not one of simply saying no,” he said. “Rather, it is one of bringing sense of reason to the discussions, understanding the business drivers and supporting what is important to drive the success of the business.”

Beyond the financials, Einwechter is committed to maintaining the ethics that make Ascent a success. In fact, the company’s mission statement of “Results, Integrity, and Quality” was coined by him. Einwechter’s understanding of what makes a business successful, along with a strong focus on ethical behavior, has created a shared ownership of the company’s commitment to integrity.

Public Company CFO of the Year: (Small — less than $1 billion in revenue)

Dan Bachus Chief Financial Officer Grand Canyon UniversityDan Bachus
Chief Financial Officer
Grand Canyon University

In just two years at Grand Canyon University, Dan Bachus has made an indelible mark on the company. While his accomplishments in 2009 were spectacular, Bachus really hit his stride this year.

In September, Bachus led the university through a successful $120 million secondary offering. He also is playing an integral role in GCU’s massive $100 million campus expansion.

In addition, Bachus is helping to guide GCU through a difficult political environment, in which congressional leaders are calling for reforms in the industry and the Department of Education is increasing its scrutiny on private, higher-education. Bachus is advocating the following initiatives to better position GCU: Educating congressional leaders and staff about the positive benefits that GCU offers; self-imposed limits on enrollment growth; transitioning the university to a “non-term” institution; and incentivizing enrollment counselors to focus on student success, not just registration.

“I thoroughly enjoy being actively involved in shaping the vision of a dynamic, visionary company such as Grand Canyon University, and I believe all companies benefit greatly from strong financial leadership,” Bachus said.”

Public Company CFO of the Year: (Large — greater than $1 billion in revenue)

Tod C. Holmes Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Republic Services Inc.Tod C. Holmes
Vice President and Chief Financial Officer
Republic Services Inc.


Tod Holmes’ efforts in helping Republic Services successfully complete the largest acquisition in its history during the 2008 economic meltdown continues to resonate positively with the company.

Republic’s purchase of Allied Waste Industries, which formed the nation’s second-largest non-hazardous solid waste services company, is considered Holmes’ signature achievement in his 12 years as the company’s vice president and chief financial officer. On closing, the acquisition had an equity value of approximately $4.5 billion and a total transaction value of $11 billion.

Holmes also has worked to make sure Republic Services adjusted as the economic crisis unfolded. As of March 31, 2010, Republic has achieved approximately $180 million in annual synergies — approximately $115 million were realized in 2009, and an additional $65 million-$70 million are expected this year.

Under Holmes’ financial stewardship Republic Services has been named one of the Most Shareholder Friendly Companies by Institutional Investor magazine for the past four years. Holmes himself has been named as one of the Best CFOs in America by Institutional Investor magazine for the past seven years.



Karen M. Abraham Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Blue Cross Blue Shield of ArizonaKaren M. Abraham
Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona


At Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona (BCBSAZ), Karen M. Abraham is known as a “go to” executive who is often called upon by the CEO and senior leadership to help solve a wide variety of business problems — and with good reason. Abraham has been working for BCBSAZ since 1983, starting as a Medicare auditor. Before being appointed a senior vice president, Abraham had served as vice president of finance since 1997. During her tenures as vice president and chief financial officer, BCBSAZ has grown from $313 million to $1.5 billion in revenue.

Among her many significant achievements at BCBSAZ was getting the company in compliance with the BCBS Association requirement to obtain a rating from S&P. The process by which she implemented this requirement resulted in a major change in how BCBSAZ manages its organization, specifically providing an additional discipline in its budgeting, forecasting and rating of its products.

As the “go-to” executive, Abraham has served in various dual capacities, including acting as chief information officer while the search for a permanent CIO was being conducted. During this time, she launched design and construction efforts for the company’s new state-of-the-art, 45,000-square-foot data center. Now Abraham is rolling up her sleeves for the next big challenge facing BCBSAZ — health care reform.

“The new reform law is very complex and has dramatically changed the industry,” she said. “We need to make changes to meet these new demands and to continue to be looked upon as Arizona’s trusted leader in health insurance.”

Bradley C. Anderson Vice President, Finance and Chief Financial Officer Amtech Systems Inc.Bradley C. Anderson
Vice President, Finance and Chief Financial Officer
Amtech Systems Inc.


Bradley C. Anderson’s role at Amtech Systems has been described by CEO Jong S. Whang as “quasi-COO, as well as CFO.”
Amtech Systems is a global supplier of solar and semiconductor equipment, and Anderson’s leadership has had a significant impact on the company’s performance. In 2004, Amtech posted annual revenue of approximately $20 million. Revenue for Amtech’s third quarter this year was a record $43.1 million.

In his four years at Amtech, Anderson has done much to bring the solar company out of the shadows. During his first year, he led the company through two successful secondary offerings, including numerous investor “road shows.” In addition, Anderson instituted quarterly earnings’ calls with analysts, thus helping to raise the company’s profile among analysts and investors. He also has developed a strong technical knowledge of solar cells and semiconductors, which he shares at investor and industry conferences.

Another of Anderson’s achievements is the instrumental role he played in bringing about Amtech’s 2007 acquisition of R2D Automation, a solar and semiconductor automation company located in France. The acquisition has significantly enhanced Amtech’s solar growth strategy by offering an integrated system.

Jason Berg Chief Accounting Officer AMERCO/U-HaulJason Berg
Chief Accounting Officer


Along with his fiduciary responsibilities, Jason Berg, chief accounting officer at AMERCO/U-Haul, also is a driving force in expanding the company’s real estate and sustainability efforts.

“If my performance creates opportunities for the marketing and operations areas of the organization, I have done my job,” Berg said.

Berg has developed a distressed mortgage loan acquisition program to find and purchase first mortgages on self-storage properties. The company has been able to maximize shareholder value either through taking title to distressed properties at a deep discount or from high yields by rehabilitating the loans. Over the past few years, the company has closed on nearly $30 million in such deals.

He also is a leading voice and contributor to AMERCO/ U-Haul’s extensive sustainability efforts. He was part of a team that created and implemented a program aimed at lowering AMERCO/U-Haul’s environmental impact. Under this program, storage facilities have been retrofitted to reduce their electricity use, pavement has been switched to permeable ground cover, and waste collection and disposal efforts have been further expanded.

Linda Cohen Director of Finance and Business Operations Sojourner CenterLinda Cohen
Director of Finance and Business Operations
Sojourner Center


In these difficult economic times, Sojourner Center couldn’t ask for a greater champion than Linda Cohen.

Sojourner Center is a Phoenix-based domestic violence shelter for women and children. Sojourner has 280 emergency shelter beds and 32 transitional apartments, and serves 2,900 women and children each year. But in 2009, the organization’s continued ability to provide these needed services came under siege, as the economic downturn battered the state’s budget, forcing a 13 percent funding cut for Sojourner Center.

Cohen’s hard work averted disaster. After countless hours and weekly cash-flow projections, Cohen and a board-run finance committee were able to determine how Sojourner Center could weather the $1 million funding loss, continue to operate at current capacity and avoid staff layoffs.

“For me, ultimately we need to be able to withstand tests of financial stability and sustainability to ensure that women and children who reach out to us for shelter won’t have to look elsewhere, because oftentimes there is nowhere else to go,” Cohen said.

Under Cohen’s stewardship, Sojourner’s annual budget has grown from $2.2 million in its 2005 fiscal year to an estimated $7 million for fiscal year 2011.

Keith Cowan
Chief Financial Officer
AAA Arizona Inc.


In just under five years, Keith Cowan has increased AAA Arizona’s revenue and membership — all while the nation’s economy spiraled downward.

During Cowan’s tenure as chief financial officer, AAA has grown from $58.4 million in revenue in 2006 to $74.3 million in 2010. In that same period, membership grew from 709,000 to 791,000.

Cowan accomplished all this by taking on several initiatives to keep the company growing and healthy. He enhanced strategic partnerships with other AAA Clubs; led the move of the club’s data center, which significantly reduced the organization’s operational risk; launched AAA Arizona’s new intranet; and initiated and sponsored a new time management program.

His leadership also has produced important improvements in AAA Arizona’s reporting. Awareness of financial and other detailed metrics has increased through monthly operational and strategic review meetings, and dashboards for all levels of the organization.

“The goal setting needs to occur in an informed way, so we strike the right balance between pushing to achieve continually improved performance and being grounded in a realistic assessment of the stretch capabilities of the team,” he said.

Keith Cowan Chief Financial Officer AAA Arizona Inc.Michael N. Deitch
Chief Financial Officer
Providence Service Corporation


Thanks to his “can-do” attitude, Michael N. Deitch, chief financial officer for Providence Service Corporation, is recognized as a positive and powerful force within the company. In this past recession, that positive attitude has served Providence very well.

During the economic downturn, Tucson-based Providence Service lost 90 percent of its market value. But by staying in front of banks and rating agencies, Deitch has been key to the company’s turnaround.

“I must be proficient and current in accounting standards, SEC rules and regulations, and congressional legislation that affects public companies,” he said. “This knowledge is also required for managing a public company’s finance and accounting department effectively.”

Providence Service Corporation is dedicated to providing and managing government-sponsored social services. Benefiting from the growing trend for government privatization of social services, Providence provides human services and non-emergency transportation services management directly to children, adolescents, young adults and families who are eligible for government assistance. It provides these services in the client’s own home or in community-based settings versus institutional care.

Mike Effinger Chief Financial Officer InfusionsoftMike Effinger
Chief Financial Officer


Infusionsoft is an entrepreneurial venture that has gone to the next level — and company leaders say Chief Financial Officer Mike Effinger has played a major role in that move.

Before Effinger joined Infusionsoft more than two years ago, the software company was being successfully run through intuition and customer growth. Today, Infusionsoft’s senior management acknowledges that Effinger has provided guidance and direction to “mature” the company and lay a solid foundation for growth.

“As CFO, those I work with know that my primary objective is the accomplishment of our business goals and ensuring that those I work with have the information they need to do the same,” he said.

Effinger initiated a complete conversion of Infusionsoft’s financial reporting systems. This reduced the time it takes to close monthly financials by 50 percent.

Even in the midst of the stocks market’s crash in 2008, Effinger was able to help Infusionsoft secure the investments needed to fund a change in revenue model and continue the company’s customer growth. As a result of this change, Infusionsoft is on track to become cash-flow positive by the end of the year.

Ruth Engle Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Troon Golf LLCRuth Engle
Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer
Troon Golf LLC


Golf may be an individual sport, but Ruth Engle understands it takes a team to run a company. As executive vice president and chief financial officer of Troon Golf LLC, Engle believes that one of her most critical roles is to create a strong team to propel the company to success.

“Nothing is more critical than choosing the right team; balancing skill sets to meet organizational requirements; setting lofty but realistic expectations; challenging, motivating and mentoring staff to permit them to reach the pinnacle of their capabilities; encouraging intellectual curiosity and appropriate risk taking; and performance management,” Engle said.

In addition, the team also must align its functions and activities with the goals of its customers and stakeholders, setting strategic objectives, evaluating and improving process and providing the adequate tools.

Engle leads Troon Golf’s total quality initiative, and has been instrumental in defining and mapping the company’s processes. As part of that, she helped to spearhead Troon Golf’s new initiative, which goes by the appropriate acronym of GRiP (Growth, Retention, Individual Responsibility and Profitability). Engle also helped to define metrics for each element of GRiP.

F. Philip Giltner Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Shamrock Foods CompanyF. Philip Giltner
Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer
Shamrock Foods Company


Through good times and bad, F. Philip Giltner has steered Shamrock Foods Company’s finances with a steady hand for 19 years. It’s a longevity Giltner appreciates.

“Relationships and people that come to Shamrock tend to stay for a long time,” he said. “Relationships develop. It’s sort of intuitive that you know what to expect from the others.”

When he joined the company as chief financial officer in 1991, Shamrock’s annual sales stood at $469.4 million. The company estimates that its 2010 sales will reach $1.7 billion.

Giltner’s steady hand was tested in 2000, when Shamrock experienced a series of financial difficulties. First, the computer system for its Arizona Foods Division’s automated warehouse system left the company unable to accurately and timely ship products. Secondly, the company was not successful in operating a new and larger ice cream manufacturing plant. Finally, there were reporting problems at Shamrock’s Arizona Meat Plant. The problems were fixed, but the company took a substantial loss. However, with Giltner’s assistance, Shamrock was able to secure additional long-term debt and renegotiated bank loans.

Larry Haggerty Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer TriWest Healthcare AllianceLarry Haggerty
Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer
TriWest Healthcare Alliance


It’s not easy maneuvering through the twists and turns of Washington bureaucracy, but for 15 years, Larry Haggerty has led TriWest Healthcare Alliance out of the maze and into profitability.

TriWest contracts with the Department of Defense to provide health care services to 2.7 million military personnel, retirees and their families in 21 Western states, as well as Alaska and Hawaii.

Haggerty was a critical factor in TriWest’s successful efforts to land three competitive bids. As a result, TriWest is one of only three existing Defense Department contractors to survive negotiations and retain their government business. With conservative but solid growth, TriWest has never had a quarterly loss in its history, nor suffered investment losses.

Haggerty is praised for leading numerous negotiations over thorny issues with the Defense Department, all with a style that reinforced TriWest’s reputation for openness, transparency and an approach that balances both corporate and taxpayer interests. TriWest has strived to achieve the status of a true partner with the Department of Defense, and a good portion of the credit goes to Haggerty and his financial team.

Tom Harris Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Arizona DiamondbacksTom Harris
Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer
Arizona Diamondbacks


In his four years as chief financial officer for the Arizona Diamondbacks, Tom Harris has become an industry leader in financial planning and efficiency.

Harris improved the Diamondbacks’ cash position with a $50 million capital infusion from team owners, and secured large lines of credit amidst economic turmoil.

Harris also reversed the team’s policy of allowing deferred player payments and created a timeline to pay down debt associated with that practice. In addition, he has mapped out a new player payroll strategy for the team’s baseball operations staff that puts the club more in line with teams in comparably sized markets. Harris also was influential in the Diamondback’s new policy of avoiding player agreements that include incentives. And as the economic climate worsened, Harris oversaw a difficult, but necessary, work force reduction.

The Diamondbacks are a highly visible member of the Valley’s business community. As such, Harris makes sure he and the team are actively involved in giving back to the community. Harris has been the leading force behind the team’s diverse vendor program and hiring practices.

James R. Hatfield Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Pinnacle West Capital Corporation/Arizona Public Service CompanyJames R. Hatfield
Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer
Pinnacle West Capital Corporation/Arizona Public Service Company


James R. Hatfield has only been at Pinnacle West Capital Corporation, the parent company of Arizona Public Service Company (APS), for two years. But what a two years it has been.

The company faced a litany of challenges over those years: APS’ corporate bond rating was just above non-investment grade; the utility filed a proposal with the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) for a 10 percent retail customer base rate increase, as well as an emergency interim rate request to preserve its debt ratings; the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station was placed in the second-highest category of government oversight, creating additional costs; Pinnacle West decided to exit the real estate development business; and finally, the financial market collapse froze access to crucial commercial paper markets.

Under his watch, Hatfield stabilized the company’s bond ratings, renegotiated debt covenants and maximized the opportunity to raise $250 million with a high-valuation common stock offering. But perhaps most importantly, Hatfield helped the company achieve $65 million in emergency rate relief in 2008, and the following year, a regulatory settlement with the ACC and 21 stakeholders statewide provided a $207 million annual revenue increase to APS.

David A. Jackson Chief Financial Officer Knight Transportation Inc.David A. Jackson
Chief Financial Officer
Knight Transportation Inc.


During these turbulent economic times, David A. Jackson has played a critical role in keeping Knight Transportation Inc. roadworthy.

Jackson has been the chief financial officer at Knight Transportation for nearly seven years, after being promoted to the position at the age of 28. He joined Knight in 2000, and prior to his appointment as CFO, Jackson served as the corporate purchasing manager.

As part of his efforts to keep Knight strong, Jackson restructured personnel, allowing the company to do more with less and compete successfully in a weak marketplace. He also designed a variable, performance-driven compensation plan for Knight employees.

Externally, Jackson made sure the company had access to capital, while minimizing risk. Knight remains debt free and has been able to grow its market share. Throughout the financial crisis, Knight also was able to preserve capital investments through such strategies as investing in pre-refunded municipal bonds and avoiding the freeze in the auction rate securities market.

“I believe the single-most important role of a CFO is in defining the long-term strategy of the company and aligning all appropriate financial capital and human capital to pull it all off,” he said.

Todd LaPorte Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Scottsdale HealthcareTodd LaPorte
Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer
Scottsdale Healthcare


As the nation’s health care industry enters uncharted waters, Scottsdale Healthcare (SHC) is secure in the financial leadership Todd LaPorte provides.

“I am very excited about how finance will be very relevant in helping the health care industry shift from being volume-focused to being value-based, where hospitals will be as involved with helping patients avoid hospital stays as they will be involved in delivering the highest quality acute care during hospital stays,” LaPorte said.

As senior vice president and chief financial officer at SHC, LaPorte is in charge of long-term financial and capital planning for the $1 billion organization. He also manages a $300 million investment portfolio and developed SHC’s long-term debt refinancing strategy, which is expected to save the system millions of dollars. In 2008, as the national credit markets unraveled, LaPorte refinanced several bonds for SHC. Along with saving millions, LaPorte’s action also led to a dramatic turnaround in the balance sheet and a stronger bond rating for the hospital system.

What makes LaPorte even more highly valued at SHC is his compassion for patients, and skill in working with and understanding input from various sources.

Linda Miller Chief Financial Officer VALLEYLIFELinda Miller
Chief Financial Officer


For nonprofit organizations, the quality of their programs is the most powerful tool they have in their quest for funding. That program quality relies on organizational strength — strength that is partly based on solid financial management and systems.

VALLEYLIFE, which provides residential, day treatment, vocational and in-home services to people with disabilities, can thank its chief financial officer, Linda Miller, for providing that needed solid financial stewardship.

Miller has continually strengthened VALLEYLIFE’s financial and reporting systems, which have assisted in improving the organization’s operating efficiencies. Currently, VALLEYLIFE’s administrative overhead ratio is less than 7 percent.

“Even though I don’t work with the individuals who receive the services directly, I make a difference by ensuring that the resources of the organization are used appropriately for the members’ services,” Miller said.

She is one of a two-person executive team consisting only of a CEO and the CFO. Miller also is the leader of the organization’s Revenue Diversification Committee, which is developing additional revenue from varied and non-traditional sources.

Brent C. Nelson Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer SCF ArizonaBrent C. Nelson
Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer
SCF Arizona


Before Brent C. Nelson joined SCF Arizona as chief financial officer in 2007, the insurance company was facing some significant issues with its accounting systems.

SCF had just completed a comprehensive technology transition that included converting from the western to the eastern method of insurance accounting. However, design and execution were seriously flawed, leaving SCF to deal with major errors and excessive manual workarounds. All that led to external auditor management letters and reporting of significant deficiencies for 2007 and 2008.

Thanks to his experience, work ethic and drive, Nelson turned the situation around. Nelson and his team created an IT to GL coordination function and an internal/external reporting function that corrected most of the manual workarounds. The auditors were pleased, and in 2009, they did not issue a management letter.

“I engage with managers and employees in understanding how their roles and actions affect performance,” Nelson said. “I get a thrill when the ‘aha’ moment occurs — the discovery and insight into the crucial connection between their work activities and operating results.”

Robert D. Osborne Chief Financial Officer Russell Sigler Inc.Robert D. Osborne
Chief Financial Officer
Russell Sigler Inc.


While many other companies have been contracting during this economic slowdown, HVAC equipment, parts and supplies company Russell Sigler Inc. has been expanding. And Chief Financial Officer Robert D. Osborne has played a pivotal role in that growth.

When Osborne began with Russell Sigler in 1984, the company’s sales were $55 million. The internal reports designed and developed by Osborne helped key managers at the company to guide and track operations, increasing sales to $221 million in 2006.

The collapse of the housing and commercial real estate markets caused Russell Sigler’s sales to fall sharply over the last two years. However, Osborne’s recent efforts have made it possible for the company to acquire Carrier’s California territory distributor, which has doubled Russell Sigler’s size and market share.

Osborne worked with Carrier’s business development department, and loan officers from Bank of America and Wells Fargo to obtain a $100 million credit line to finance the acquisition. With the addition of the California territory, Russell Sigler offices and warehouses will increase from 11 to 33, and sales for this year are anticipated to reach $295 million. In 2011, the company projects sales approaching $400 million.

Kristi Ponczak Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Rural/Metro CorporationKristi Ponczak
Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer
Rural/Metro Corporation


Rural/Metro Corporation has become the nation’s second-largest ambulance provider, thanks in no small part to Kristi Ponczak. As Rural/Metro’s senior vice president and chief financial officer, Ponczak assembled a sort of financial dream team, with experts in all areas of finance, including tax, treasury, as well as a controller.

Ponczak’s team routinely delivers accurate and on-time financial reporting services to Rural/Metro’s field operating units across the country. As a result, operating personnel can focus their time and energy on delivering quality health care.

“As CFO, you sit in the middle of the entire organization, which in my case is moving fast and furiously around me,” she said. “To ensure that all these disparate people, systems, operations, vendors, customers and investors have the right information at the right time to make the correct decision, you have to be an orchestrator and liaison.”

In 2009, Ponczak led the successful refinancing of the Rural/Metro’s senior secured debt. That move has allowed the company to extend maturities, reduce the complexity of the capital structure, increase access to pre-payable debt, and eliminate the risk of restricted payment baskets.

Eugene S. Putnam Jr. Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Universal Technical Institute Inc.Eugene S. Putnam Jr.
Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer
Universal Technical Institute Inc.


As executive vice president and chief financial officer for Universal Technical Institute Inc., Eugene S. Putnam Jr. takes the company’s core beliefs — purpose, people and profit — to heart.

“The real interesting part about finance is ensuring that it blends well with the other values of the company,” Putnam said. “While it is important to earn an acceptable rate of return for shareholders, we must realize that goal cannot be achieved without a focus on our customers.”

Putnam joined UTI in 2008, when the nation’s credit crisis was making it difficult for students to access private loans. Putnam played a key part in UTI’s development and implementation of a proprietary loan program for students. So far, UTI has committed more than $20 million to the program.

In response to a government mandate, he also transitioned UTI’s campuses from the Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP) to direct lending. FFELP uses commercial lenders, relying on a federal government guaranty, to make loans to students and their parents. This year, schools were required to eliminate FFELP and implement direct lending. Students can now get their loans directly from the federal government. UTI successfully made the transition before the government’s deadline.

Larry W. Seay Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Meritage Homes CorporationLarry W. Seay
Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer
Meritage Homes Corporation


While the nation’s economy didn’t officially go into recession until 2008, the home-building industry began feeling the slowdown as early as 2006. Fortunately for Meritage Homes Corporation, Larry W. Seay already was on the job.

As executive vice president and chief financial officer of Meritage, Seay anticipated the need to reduce the company’s overhead. He spearheaded the centralization of certain overhead functions at Meritage, such as accounting, finance and accounts payable, in the process saving payroll burden charges, easing audit testing and generating standardization and consistency in the organization. After the successful reorganization of his departments, others at Meritage followed suit.

“Thankfully, Meritage survived the downturn and is on firm financial footing today,” Seay said.

Seay also managed the company’s debt and capital structure, and developed relationships with financial institutions. But Seay didn’t just batten down the hatches. To help lead Meritage out of the recession, he created a new land-purchasing program. With its highly liquid cash position, Meritage has taken advantage of depressed prices by aggressively negotiating land acquisitions with troubled sellers.

Brian L. Swartz Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Apollo Group Inc.Brian L. Swartz
Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer
Apollo Group Inc.


Brian Swartz hit the ground running when he became Apollo Group Inc.’s senior vice president and chief financial officer in 2009.

Just prior to his joining Apollo, the company had discovered a stock option backdating issue. Swartz, along with Apollo’s president and chief operating officer, Joe D’Amico, led a comprehensive overhaul of the governance practice at the company. It included hiring a general counsel, upgrading the effectiveness of the internal audit function and establishing a chief ethics compliance officer.

As part of resolving the backdating issue, Swartz also performed a detailed review of Apollo’s historical account balances. He identified a variety of adjustments that were included in a Securities Exchange Commission restatement in 2007. The SEC accepted the submission of this review without further changes or censure of the company. These actions helped Apollo to avoid being de-listed on the NASDAQ, thus saving shareholders billions of dollars. Swartz credits the support of his colleagues and board members with his success.

“It’s all about building relationships … and trusting people, and making sure you have full access to information and data in order to make business decisions,” he said.

Barbara Thompson Business Director Western Maricopa Education CenterBarbara Thompson
Business Director
Western Maricopa Education Center


Due to the state’s budget problems, the Western Maricopa Education Center (West-MEC) has seen its funding reduced by 21 percent. But under business director Barbara Thompson, West-MEC has been able to significantly increase its service to member districts and purchased three major land and building holdings. In addition, West-MEC, which provides career and technical education to high school students in the West Valley, has increased its employee count by 100 percent.

Thompson has kept West-MEC financially solvent through careful financial planning, budgeting and working closely with all staff and member districts. Currently, West-MEC receives 78 percent of the formula funding as provided by state statute. The state Legislature has, through its budget process, continued to cut funding to education districts. Thanks to Thompson, however, West-MEC has so far managed not to cut any student programs or support functions.

Another Thompson innovation is the development of a system that will result in each department having the ability to better manage its portion of the budget. Before Thompson’s arrival, all financial decisions were made within West-MEC’s superintendent and business offices.

Paul Velaski Chief Financial Officer Arizona Community FoundationPaul Velaski
Chief Financial Officer
Arizona Community Foundation


In his three years as chief financial officer for the Arizona Community Foundation, Paul Velaski’s work has often taken him out of the financial sphere.

Along with managing the accounting, finance, budgeting and financial reporting functions of the $470 million foundation, Velaski also is very active in the fundraising area, something not typical of most nonprofit CFOs. He has successfully rebuilt trust with significant donors, giving them a more positive view of the foundation.

“I enjoy solving complex issues that we are presented with almost daily, while still making sure our organization fulfills our mission by matching our donors’ philanthropic desires with the needs of the community,” he said.

Velaski has assembled a team of accounting and financial professionals that has changed internal processes to ensure the timely recording of contributions, proper accounting of complex transactions and accurate reporting of financial information to internal and external constituencies. Velaski and his team have had two consecutive external audits with no audit adjustments or management letters issued. The transparency Velaski has brought to the foundation has created trust with current and prospective donors, resulting in more assets for the organization.

Dale Wanek Chief Financial Officer Boys & Girls Clubs of Metropolitan PhoenixDale Wanek
Chief Financial Officer
Boys & Girls Clubs of Metropolitan Phoenix


It’s been a busy five years for Dale Wanek, chief financial officer of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metropolitan Phoenix. Under his stewardship, the organization has nearly doubled its assets; reduced overall expenses in the last fiscal year by $300,000; opened three new clubhouses; and achieved 100 percent clean audits, with zero discrepancies.

“It is often said that nonprofits should be ‘run like a business.’ With our emphasis on transparency and adherence to practices, I like to think we run better than a business,” Wanek said.

Along with other senior staff members, area directors and club managers, Wanek was instrumental in helping club locations monitor spending and reduce energy costs. He also opened new revenue streams, entering a lucrative agreement with a mobile phone company to place cell towers on club properties. In addition, Wanek created a process by which nonprofit groups can rent club space during off hours. Wanek also secured more than $10 million in loans, and successfully negotiated in paying back only $7 million. With the loans, the organization was able to build three new facilities, serving more than 7,500 additional youngsters living in extremely poor neighborhoods.




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