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USF accountant school gets $10M from Raymond James alum

— Lynn Pippenger led off remarks she gave at USF on Tuesday with a lesson learned early in life, around age 4 or 5, when she earned a small allowance.

“I was taught to do three things. One, always give back. Two, I had to save some of my money. And three, I could spend some. I still do those three things today,” she said.

Addressing hundreds of students, faculty and staff, she then quipped, “I could stop here, since that pretty well sums it up.”

Instead, when the laughter died down, the longtime Raymond James executive continued with the story of her life and what led her to donate $10 million to the accounting school at the University of South Florida’s Muma College of Business. The school will be named for her, USF announced Tuesday.

It was the latest in a series of high-dollar gifts to USF by successful alumni. In September, Kate Tiedemann, a medical products entrepreneur, gave $10 million to USF St. Petersburg, the largest donation in that school’s history. The new business college rising there will be named for her.

In October, Les Muma, a founder of a financial industry automation company and his wife, Pam, gave $25 million to the business school on the main campus. Frank and Carol Morsani, who did not attend USF, have donated $20 million for construction of a new college of medicine, which will bear their name.

It’s not a coincidence. Muma said Tuesday he accepted the school being named for him rather than quietly making the gift because he thought it might spur additional giving — which it did in the case of Pippenger.

“I believe in education foremost, and as a graduate of USF, I felt like I needed to give back,” Pippenger said in an interview after Tuesday’s ceremonies. “It’s a great university with a lot of potential. It’s a young university. Only now are graduates becoming of the age where they have accumulated enough wealth to give back, and I wanted to be part of the tradition.”

Born and raised in St. Petersburg, a curious Pippenger learned the basics of bookkeeping and the stock market from neighbors in the professions. After high school, she became a cashier for the old Webb City attraction in St. Petersburg — billed as “The World’s Most Unusual Drug Store” — and eventually landed in the office.

She applied to brokerages, but at the time, the industry typically didn’t hire women. She landed a couple of bookkeeping jobs for local businesses, and was hired at Raymond James in 1969.

Her payroll clerk’s position evolved into what she now says was “whatever comes my way.” She rose to chief financial officer and treasurer, but handled many special projects as the company grew, including establishing the firm’s human resources and information technology departments and launching the internal education program known as “Raymond James University.”

Working alongside founder Robert James and his son Tom, Pippenger helped build the then-unknown company into a worldwide powerhouse with client assets of $483 billion.

“Lynn is a self-made person,” said Tom James, now chairman of the company. “Extremely bright. Extremely disciplined. Extremely sharing.”

While working, Pippenger also started attending what was then St. Petersburg Junior College and USF St. Petersburg. She described herself as “the kind of student that makes President Genshaft cringe” — taking 16 years to earn her diploma.

But she then breezed through the school’s executive MBA program, graduating with honors in 1988.

The $10 million will help USF address a projected shortfall of accountants and auditors and prepare students to take examinations to become certified public accountants or earn additional accounting credentials.

It’s only the latest contribution by Pippenger. She started donating to the school in 1986 and to date has given $22 million. She has backed scholarship and study-abroad programs, and other features of the Muma College are named for her.

Dean Moez Limayem acknowledged that it’s a good time to be an administrator at the USF business school. But he said with that good fortune comes a certain amount of pressure.

“That’s the pressure I like,” Limayem said. “Everyone at the Muma College of Business at USF will work hard so that Pam and Les and Lynn will have the best return on investment, so they can see the impact of their transformational gifts while they are still with us.”

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