Charles A. Dana Professor of Accounting Business and Economics
If a workforce researcher were to trace the steps on the career path of accounting professor Pat Weaver, there would be gentle rises, then a gradual downhill slope, followed by several abrupt turns and ending with a straight and steady rise. If that same researcher sought a connecting thread to stitch together Pat's passion for her work, the theme would be finding lessons in compelling stories.
Pat's circuitous path to Juniata's classrooms is a compelling storyline in itself. It begins in Erie, Pa., on a snowy morning. Her father was an Erie school administrator whose duties included canceling school for inclement weather. An early repeated memory has her trying to cajole her dad into declaring a snow day. "But this was Erie--we went to school if there was three feet of snow," she laughs.
Weaver, Dana Professor of Accounting, left Erie in her rear-view mirror when she transferred to Penn State's main campus. She recalls that she made life decisions sort of whimsically. "I remember asking my best friend if I should major in English or math, and I think I chose English because I thought the kids were cooler," she says.
Once she was in English classes, she was captivated by the stories--Dostoyevsky, Hemingway, Salinger. "I decided to try writing, because I had been praised for that and I wanted to be deep and enigmatic," she says, with a laugh. By 1965, she had earned a master's degree in English from Penn State and met and married Robert Weaver, now professor emeritus of English at Penn State. She taught beginning English composition for years, but could not find a permanent position because Penn State's English department had a policy of not hiring faculty spouses.
She started a family and with the birth of son Adam and daughter Amy she decided to quit full-time teaching. She continued to teach at Penn State off and on, and even started a television repair business to occupy herself. Even repairing televisions allowed her to trace a kind of story. "Diagnostics is trying to trace where the message is not getting through," she explains.
When those ventures did not satisfy her, she decided to return to college to study either engineering or accounting. "I chose accounting because I could complete it in one less semester," she says. However whimsical her career choice, she found she had a talent for it--although at the beginning she says she was getting good grades only because she was memorizing her lessons. In an effort to understand the mathematics of accounting she took college algebra, becoming, in her late 30s, easily the oldest person in the class including the instructor.
"I kept passing my courses but I never felt I knew it until I was working," Pat explains. "All of a sudden it dawned on me how accounting interacts as a system." She took her first job at the Tyrone office of Young, Oakes, Brown Co. where she started doing tax returns. She found that she loved the challenge of the job and also the extremely personal interaction with clients.
"I would have trouble remembering the tax figures, but I never forgot the personal stories," she says. "As an accountant you're meeting people, listening to their stories and solving their problems." Pat found that she was so fascinated by accounting that she was working sometimes seven days a week (at least during tax season) and decided to work out of her home ("My gimmick was that I'd come to your house"). Then in 1986, she heard of an opening at Juniata. A faculty member had left, and the department needed to hire a replacement quickly. She was hired, and she found her teaching style on the fly. What was it? What else? Telling stories.
"I use cases that I write myself," she says. "I have one that's based on Gone With the Wind with Tara Corporation and Rhett Butler is the CFO. I've got another one that's really funny called Sharkey's Shark Bait. I love writing them, and the students seem to like them."
Well of course. Everybody loves a good story.
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