“Go west, young man” a friend advised a teenaged Roy back in his native South Africa. With a stellar swimming talent and top notch academic record, west he did go, landing in the Garden State at the tender age of 17 to attend Princeton University.
A Classics Major Turns to Business
Influenced by a high school teacher, Roy developed a love for language and history, especially Latin. So it’s no surprise he majored in Classics while at Princeton. He fondly recalls studying the history of Roman and Greek cultures; his thesis focused on pre-Roman Empire days. But upon graduation, Roy pondered, “Now what am I going to do with this?” His then-wife suggested, “Why not go into business?” Up to that point, Roy, who was also good at math, had little exposure to the business world. Encouraged by his wife, Roy applied to a few Masters of Business Administration programs and accepted an offer from UCLA. In the summer of 1977, he and his wife packed up their New Jersey life and made their way to the City of Angels. While earning his MBA, Roy interned at Coopers & Lybrand (currently known as PwC) and credits that internship for guiding him into the accounting profession.
The Road to Portland
After obtaining his MBA, Roy puzzled over where to start his career; L.A. wasn’t a good fit for the young couple. With contacts in Eugene, Oregon, they drove north to see what Track Town, USA was all about. They were impressed by the natural beauty of the place, but having grown up in an urban and vibrant setting, they couldn’t see themselves settling there, so they continued their search north to see what Portland was all about; they immediately took a fancy to the Rose City. “It just clicked for both of us,” he reminisces. “It had a similar vibe to our hometown of Johannesburg.”
Roy interviewed with several accounting firms, but because of his internship with Coopers he accepted the offer from their Portland office, thereby marking Roy’s official start into the world of accounting.
The Beginning of an Illustrious Career
In 1979 Roy joined the audit staff at Coopers, but after three years discovered audit wasn’t for him. “I really didn’t like lengthy checklists” he protests. So he joined a smaller firm where he was exposed to the world of tax and bookkeeping and was able to work with small businesses for the first time. After six months at his new firm, the company was acquired by a regional accounting firm where he gained additional tax experience.
A few months later Roy decided to return to Coopers—this time in their tax department—and soon thereafter was promoted to manager. While at Coopers Roy did tax work for large corporations and got involved with the Oregon Society of CPAs (OSCPA) including serving on the Board of Directors.
Then along came the Tax Reform Act of 1986 (TRA) which introduced a significant overhaul of the U.S. income tax code. Much of the impact was felt by individuals and smaller businesses, which meant Roy’s clients at Coopers were relatively unaffected. In light of the TRA, Roy felt he could have a greater impact on and be a better advisor to smaller businesses and their owners. He reconnected with a former “Big 8” firm partner and OSCPA colleague, Jim Gaffney, who had recently joined a new upstart local accounting firm called Sander, Perkins & Company (now known as Perkins & Co). Jim was doing exactly what Roy sought to do, so at Jim’s urging he interviewed with the firm. 1987 marks the year Roy was invited to join the Perkins family as a tax manager and the rest is history. Thirty years later, he says it was the best business decision he’s ever made.
While Jim Gaffney may have helped launch Roy’s career at Perkins & Co, he states that working with Cheryl Perkins — one of the original co-founders and the firm’s namesake — was pivotal in laying the essential groundwork for his career growth and professional development. He started working with Cheryl on estates and trusts taxation and honed his interest in advising individuals and their families by getting involved with the Austen Family Business Program being offered by Oregon State University that to this day helps prepare family businesses and their owners address the challenges and opportunities which may arise during succession planning.
When Cheryl announced her retirement plans in the early 2000s, Roy took over running the firm’s Legacy Planning Practice Group’s meetings and became its director. Roy happily accepted the firm’s offer of shareholder in 2004 — an offer he had declined ten years earlier because he felt he wasn’t ready for the commitment at the time — and enrolled in BDO’s Sales Training Program for new partners, something the firm still offers to all of its new shareholders.
Going Above and Beyond – Creating a Philanthropic Legacy
Outside of Roy’s 38-year career in public accounting, we’d be remiss if we didn’t touch upon his philanthropic endeavors. Roy is a celebrated community service leader and has volunteered countless hours for many nonprofit organizations and foundations ranging from Oregon Health and Science University’s Planned Giving Council to the Portland Baroque Orchestra where he served as Treasurer for several years to past Board Chair of the Randall Children’s Hospital Foundation. Currently, he serves on the board for the Oregon Jewish Community Foundation.
With an illustrious career under his belt and retirement close on the horizon, we asked Roy what he’ll miss most. “Working with smart people at a firm that nurtures its employees and provides them opportunities for advancement,” he commented. “Also working at a firm that provides a wide variety of opportunities — both in interesting industries to work with and services we can provide our clients.” He notes sentimentally, “I’ll also miss being an advocate and trusted advisor for my clients; they’ve become good friends of mine over the years.”
We’ll certainly miss Roy’s wisdom, passion and calm demeanor around our office when he retires next month. Whether it’s reconnecting with the Classics, learning French or playing a good game of bridge, we wish him the best of luck in the next chapter of his life.
Author: Erika Kirkland, Senior Marketing Specialist