By Brendan Fitzgerald, CPA
2012-2013 Chair of the Executive Board
It is not easy to craft a column that is worthy of saying farewell to Clarke Price. At the end of this month, Clarke will retire after 40 years with The Ohio Society of CPAs, the last 22 of which serving as president and CEO. While the number of years alone is impressive, it is really not what bears recognition. It is the legacy he created and leaves behind. He guided OSCPA to be nationally recognized and respected while advocating on behalf of our members. We all reaped the benefits of his dedicated service, his leadership and his integrity. He loyally served with distinction, selflessly promoting our profession with creativity and commitment.
I tried to imagine what past presidents and chairs of The Ohio Society of CPAs would say about Clarke if they were in my place. The stories that each could tell (or not tell). While the issues of their day might have been different, the character traits they would use to describe Clarke would likely be similar. Clarke was the one constant: a true leader and a better man. During his tenure as CEO, he answered to a different boss each year. He survived not by adapting to the annually changing styles and personalities of each individual, but by acting consistently with the best interest of OSCPA in mind. He turned ideas to action and action became habit. That habitual behavior allowed for continuity of focus each year. He led with wisdom and vision and the virtue to follow both. He did not dwell on what he had already accomplished, and instead set his sights on what remained unfinished.
If you were to ask Clarke to describe successes or setbacks under his leadership, he would describe them each with the same passion. In times of adversity and controversy he stood strong, as leaders should. He deftly allowed deliberation to evolve, all the while absorbing, percolating and even reformulating his advice. He had plenty of opportunities to shed opinions that were inconsistent with his own, but his conscience would not allow it. By the time an issue had been decided, it had been thoroughly analyzed and challenged. Clarke accepted that he served the Board and our members, and that never stopped him from offering sage advice. He participated in discussions and his opinion was always solicited. We knew we could count on him to advise us with conviction and execute dutifully on our directives.
Clarke would readily offer that not all success should be solely attributed to him. Along the way, he assembled a staff unparalleled in skill and professionalism. He was a demanding boss who held others to the same standards to which he held himself. It was not merely acceptable that his team fulfilled the directives put forth by the Board, but to do so with an expectation of adding value along the way. A true leader and teacher, he took interest in staff development and provided them with opportunities to achieve beyond what they might have thought attainable. He worked with volunteer leaders to enhance OSCPA in ways that were not just relevant to members, but relevant to our profession.
It would be selfish of us to be saddened by his retirement. We can remember him and smile that he led us for so long. Few men of action are able to make a graceful exit at the appropriate time. During this, his final year, he vowed to not slow down and he was true to his word. Clarke’s dedication to our organization throughout the years came with personal sacrifices we accepted without acknowledgement. He has given so much to us and we owe him a debt we can never repay. The best we can do is move forward without constraint.
In 1983 the final episode of the television show M*A*S*H aired, which at the time was the most watched show in television history. The final scene had Alan Alda’s character, Capt. Hawkeye Pierce, flying away from the camp in a helicopter. Once airborne, the message, spelled out in stones, became clear and brought a smile to Captain Pierce. I hope that message brings a smile to Clarke as well… GOODBYE.