Connie and Ken McDaniel
Connie McDaniel: BBA, Accounting, 1980 | Ken McDaniel: BBA, Accounting, 1982; MPA, 1984
Connie and Ken McDaniel are successful accounting professionals with years of experience in the industry. They love GSU and the ability to share their knowledge with our students and alumni.
As a boy in Buford, Ga., Ken McDaniel dreamed of becoming a professional baseball player. When he realized that the havoc wreaked on his body was not sustainable, he turned toward other potential futures, and ultimately, to business.
“I spent my first couple of college years chasing that dream,” said Ken, “but after playing I found out my knees and ankles probably weren’t up to the professional level.” Then he fell into accounting by chance after reading the Wall Street Journal and seeing accounting courses in the news.
Ken wanted to be self-sufficient and pay his way through school, so he focused on finding an education at a university where he could realize the greatest value.
“Georgia State was convenient, had flexible classes — I could go at days or at night and work around my schedule at the grocery store,” Ken said. “It turned out to be a great education and opportunity where I could work and go to school.”
Unlike her husband, Valdosta, Ga., native Connie McDaniel became interested in business during high school with the Future Business Leaders of America. She was good at math but always thought she would become an administrative assistant.
It was later when a friend suggested she join Beta Alpha Psi, an international honors business fraternity, that Connie began hearing about accounting careers, as well as information on the firms looking to hire college graduates from accounting programs.
“After I joined Beta Alpha Psi, I started hearing about accounting firms and what you could do with an accounting degree after graduation. I decided to declare as an accounting major and stuck with that to the end,” said Connie.
Connie was ready to live in a bigger city after growing up in Valdosta, so she headed to Atlanta because she thought she would have a better chance of getting a job that would give her relevant experience as she worked her way through college.
She had been accepted to the Georgia Institute of Technology and University of Georgia, but decided to attend Georgia State University because of its business programs.
“I was very lucky that it was such a great school and had such a great program,” said Connie.
Making the Connection
Even though both of the young students gravitated to Georgia State for its convenience, affordability and foothold in the business community, they had very different schedules.
Connie held a more traditional schedule. “I would go to class from 8 a.m. to noon and then work in the afternoons at a local accounting firm in Decatur,” she said.
“I was down here days, nights and had a very intense schedule,” her husband recalled.
One of the major boons of attending Georgia State for both was the leadership of the teachers and the working backgrounds of its dynamic student population. Ken said Georgia State’s professors stood out as mentors for students and said that he could tell they really cared about students’ education and success. Beta Alpha Psi faculty advisor Frank Stabler encouraged Ken to join the organization.
“As a member of Beta Alpha Psi I was able to get internships that helped launch my career,” he said. “Frank’s interest in me as a person and my education and development has endeared me to Georgia State University, the Robinson College of business and the school of accounting.”
Ken was even able to put his baseball skills to good use when he played at a CPA softball tournament hosted by Beta Alpha Psi. In fact, he played so well, Ken impressed the Ernst & Whinney (now EY) team. An internship followed, and Ken ended up playing softball with EY for five years.
Connie also felt grounded in the foundation of Beta Alpha Psi, citing Keith Baker as the one who took an interest in students, offering her wise counsel and advice.
“He helped turn this small town girl into a professional who could work and compete with the other students to get a job, at that time, in the big eight,” said Connie. “He had a huge impact — not only in the classroom — but how I became a professional.”
In the 1970s, all students at Georgia State were commuters, but Connie said she felt she still had a very traditional college experience with other students at the same point in their educations as she was. But it was still tough to participate in social activities on campus because of time constraints.
“It was through the classes and Beta Alpha Psi that we made all of our connections,” she said.
Connie and Ken have maintained a close connection with the university and its professors over the years, even while they lived and worked in locales such as Thailand and Germany. Ken returned to GSU for his master’s degree and even taught classes for the School of Accountancy.
“Probably the most lasting connection we have to Georgia State is our own,” said Connie. She calls it their “love connection.” They had met previously at some of the EY events, but began dating secretly after working a recruiting event together.
“At the time our firm had a nepotism policy, and I swear to you this is the only policy we’ve broken in our professional career,” said Ken with his wife laughing in the background. “Twenty-six years later it must have been the right thing.”
Finally, their Georgia State University connection came full circle when Ken worked for the university and became the Beta Alpha Psi faculty advisor for two years, taking an interest in his own students and helping them to develop beyond participation in a classroom — just as their own mentors had done for them years before.
“As with our relationship, the same set of attributes made us successful at work: honest, open communication with each other about our goals and desires, and also being flexible,” said Ken. Connie agreed and offered one last bit of advice: don’t agonize too much about one job because you’ll always find new ones, and you’ll always be learning.