Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Clemson CPA Ethel Pettigrew was named one of the College's Faces of the Decades as part of Tri-County's 50th anniversary celebration.  An outstanding alumnus from each decade (1960s - 2000s) was recognized by President Ronnie L. Booth at the May 7 spring commencement.

Ethel Pettigrew Honored as One of Tri-County’s Faces of the Decades


             CLEMSON --- CPA Ethel Pettigrew began her career as an elementary school teacher and says one day she hopes to go back to teaching, this time at her local alma mater, Tri-County Technical College.

            "I'm proud of my accounting degree from Tri-County," said Pettigrew, who was named one of the College's Faces of the Decades as part of Tri-County's 50th anniversary celebration.  An outstanding alumnus from each decade (1960s - 2000s) was recognized by President Ronnie L. Booth at the May 7 spring commencement.

             "I earned my associate degree in accounting in 1980 after getting my undergraduate and graduate degrees in education," said Pettigrew, who has a bachelor's in early childhood and elementary education from Columbia College in 1974 and a master's in elementary education from Clemson in 1975.   "I hope to teach again one day during the fall semester.  It's a way to combine my two loves - teaching and accounting," said Pettigrew, who after operating her own accounting firm for years, partnered with longtime friend and accountant Ken Whitener in 2005 to start Whitener, Pettigrew and Co., CPAs, LLC.

            Pettigrew, who has been a CPA in Clemson since 1982, taught kindergarten for four and one-half years in Oconee County before changing careers.  At the time she volunteered to serve as treasurer of the Oconee County Education Association and president of the Oconee Credit Union.  "In preparation for setting up the books for the association, I took an accounting course from the Clemson University Extension.  When I took the books to be audited and reviewed, the auditor told me it was great, just done backwards.  I took a course at Tri-County to see what he meant," she said. 

            One class led to a degree in accounting.  "I really enjoyed the classes, the students and the instructors, who challenged us," she said.  Following graduation in 1980, she began applying for jobs and was hired by Byerly and Associates as an accountant in 1980.  "During the three years there, they encouraged me to sit for the CPA exam.  My accounting classes at Tri-County, along with my two degrees, allowed me to sit for the exam," she explained.  She asked for time off to attend a review school at the University of Alabama. Her job was guaranteed when she returned.  She passed all five parts and resumed her job.  She worked at Byerly for three years. Along the way, she got married and decided to go out on her own.  She opened E.C. Pettigrew, CPA in 1984 and was a one-woman show for four years.

            "During my first tax season, our first son was born.  Mary Ann Prater took over the office for me while on maternity leave.  That was her gift to me - running the office for six weeks," she said.  Pettigrew also had an office in Calhoun Falls and manned it one day a week.  Her husband, Steve, runs a family business, Pettigrew Hardware, in Calhoun Falls. 

            The business grew through word of mouth and marketing, she said.  "Clients followed me and I had friends who knew me and spread the word," she said. 

            "I conducted seminars, talked to groups, built my business," she said.  She also got involved in civic and community organizations.  In the beginning, she joined Clemson Rotary and the Clemson Chamber of Commerce.  

            She also taught evening classes for Tri-County in the 1980s.  "My practice was young when I taught accounting and tax classes.  Many of my students were like me, working adults.  I even taught a few accountants who started out at Tri-County.  Classes were hands on and were preparing students for the workforce. I always tried to teach my classes so students saw the entire accounting process.  It's important to see the entire picture." 

            Dawn Hospelhorn, a CPA for 16 years in Seneca, was one of those students Pettigrew taught in the late 1980s.  "Ethel is my mentor," said Hospelhorn, who transferred to Southern Wesleyan University after earning an associate in science from Tri-County in 1989.  While a student at SWU, she interned for Pettigrew and later worked for her from 1990 - 93.  "I was so impressed with Ethel as a teacher and a boss.  I was very lucky to be able to intern for her and later work for her.   I learned so much from her.  The entire community respects her and her work.   She is very deserving of this Tri-County honor."

            Pettigrew has been honored over the years for her community involvement.  In 1985 she was named to the Columbia College Board of Visitors.  She was named Small Business Person of the Year by the Clemson Chamber in 1995.  That same year she won the Susan B. McWhorter Outstanding Woman Professional Award given by the Association of Women Professionals.   She received the Rotary Club of Clemson's Vocational Services Award in 2004.

            She was a graduate of the first Leadership Clemson class in 1990 and served on the board of directors for the Foothills Family YMCA from 1996 - 98.  She served as president of the Clemson Chamber in 1994 and as treasurer of the D.W. Daniel Blue and Gold Booster Club from 2001 - 2002.  She is past president of the Clemson Rotary Club and currently she is a member of the South Carolina Association of CPAs and serves on a state committee.  She is a member of the American Institute of CPAs and remains active in the Clemson Rotary Club. 

            Currently her passion is serving on the board of Clemson Child Development Center (CCDC) and as an elder at her church, Fort Hill Presbyterian Church.

            "The Faces of the Decade award is such a nice tribute to a deserving person," said Connie Powell, vice president of the CCDC.  As a CPA, Ethel brings such expertise to our board, with her business sense and her community sense.  Her gifts are in finance and she brings wonderful, creative ideas to the table.  Most important, her heart is with the kids.  She has always made good contributions to our community and she has a heart to volunteer.  With a non-profit organization like CCDC, it takes the energy of many people to operate.  Ethel is an ideal board member because she is always willing to serve."

            Pettigrew and her husband, Steve, have two sons, Colin and Patrick.  They live in Clemson.


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