What do Kenny G., “The Iceman”, a Beauty Queen, Mick Jagger, and a 15th Century friar have in common?
Traditionally, accountants have had the reputation of being boring and just good ole’ bean counters. When in fact, there are many people in history that have started off as accountants and ultimately chose to pursue another line of work. The accounting field is rich in history with some pretty famous people, so I thought I would write today about some of those famous people that started off crunching the numbers.
Italian mathematician and Franciscan friar Luca Bartolomeo de Pacioli has been called the “Father of Modern Accounting” after being credited with writing the first book on double-entry bookkeeping. This book landed Pacioli on the best-seller list in the year 1494 and made him very famous in Italy. But according to history, an earlier book, which did not become a best seller, was in fact written in 1458 by Benedetto Contrugli. The method of bookkeeping Pacioli described had been in use for over 200 years prior in Italy. Double-entry bookkeeping was called the “Method of Venice” and it was in use in other parts of Italy as well. Pacioli has an important place in accounting history for writing the book that publicized double-entry bookkeeping, even if it was not the first book written on the subject. This book, most likely, led to forming the basis of what we now use as our contemporary accounting method.
Schwarz was born in 1497 (3 years after Pacioli’s book was published) and studied to become an accountant in Italy. He was a fashion innovator and spent a large portion of his income on his wardrobe. This lead to Schwarz publishing the very first book of fashion. The book comprised 137 water colour painting of his outfits from all periods of his life up to his 63rd year. His dress was to satisfy his vanity as well as to obtain social and political prestige which he succeeded in when he was made a noble in 1541.
According to several sources, Jagger studied finance and accounting at the London School of Economics on a scholarship. Around the same time, Jagger also was becoming close to childhood friend, Keith Richards and another guitarist Brian Jones. This colliding of rock and roll while attending college ultimately led the singer to choose music over math. He lasted less than a year at LSE and didn’t graduate. Thank goodness for fans all over the world. It just wouldn’t be the same without a little “Satisfaction”.
As the lead singer of Led Zepplin, Plant had a passion for music at a very early age. But despite this passion, his father had other plans for him and at the age of 16, Plant started taking accountancy lessons. This was short lived as he quit after only two weeks to attend college and pursue his interest in music. Thank goodness for music fans as this decision lead Plant and Jimmy Page to form the iconic band Led Zepplin in 1968.
Grisham originally dreamed of being a professional baseball player. Realizing he did not have the right stuff to go pro, he traded in his glove and ball for a calculator instead and earned an accounting degree from Mississippi State University. This lead to him earning a law degree from Ole’ Miss in 1981. Grisham used his courtroom knowledge to eventually start writing legal thrillers. After hitting number one on the New York Times Bestseller List over and over again, Grisham solidified his reputation as the master of legal thriller. To date, there are currently over 300 million John Grisham books in print worldwide, which have been translated into 40 languages, and nine of his novels have been turned into films.
Chuck “The Iceman” Liddell
This “Ultimate Fighting Champion” and “Dancing with the Stars” contestant has been credited with helping make MMA a mainstream sport. He is a kickboxing, karate and mixed martial arts expert. He picked up some of his fighting skills while a student at California Polytechnic University and competing as a Division 1 wrestler. And yet surprisingly, he is also a trained accountant. He graduated with a BA in Business and Accounting in 1995.
Kenneth Bruce Gorelick is a world famous saxophonist and the bestselling instrumental musician in modern history. He has sold over 75 million records worldwide. What a lot of people don’t know is that Gorelick also has a degree in accounting from the University of Washington, where he graduated Magna Cum Laude. He has said his accounting degree helped him manage his finances early in his career and helped him to choose the right person to manage his finances when his music career really took off.
Erin Brady is the winner of the 2013 Miss USA Pageant. She traded in her calculator and started wearing a crown when she won the title on June 16, 2013. The former Financial Accountant for a retirement company, Erin has a degree in Finance and a minor in Criminal Justice.
Finally, I leave you with a fun fact about the term “bean counter”. Many people believe this term, used to describe an overzealous or detail-obsessed accountant, dates back centuries, when in fact, it’s only been around since the 1970’s.
So the next time you think your accountant is a boring guy sitting behind a desk pumping out tax returns, remember we all have a little rock star inside us all.