Chart-topping singer Dionne Warwick sang for the New York State Society of CPAs at the NYSSCPA Foundation for Accounting Education’s annual gala Thursday evening, raising funds for young students interested in entering the accounting field.

The gala raised funds in support of the NYSSCPA’s Career Opportunities in the Accounting Profession (COAP) program, a college readiness program that helps students of color enter the accounting profession, where they have been historically underrepresented. The event also raised money for the NYSSCPA’s Moynihan Fund, named after the Society's late president David J. Moynihan.

At the gala, Warwick performed a selection of her hit songs, including “Walk on By,” “I Say a Little Prayer for You,” “Alfie,” “Do You Know the Way to San Jose,” and “That’s What Friends Are For.”

Accounting Today asked Warwick in an email interview whether it is important for young people of color to learn about building a career in accounting and making the profession more diverse.

“It's important for not only people of color, but for all that will have a need for an accountant to know all of the inside of maneuvering of money, especially if it is yours or of one that has put their trust in your ability to keep their livelihood secure,” she responded.

We also asked whether it is important for performers to be more aware of accounting in light of stories about so many performers being cheated out of money by the people who work with them. “This unfortunately is true and I have fallen victim of this very thing,” she responded. “We as performers put trust in those who say they have our best interest at heart when in fact it ends up being just their interest they have in collecting our funds and not protecting any of those funds to make our wellbeing secure. My expertise is performing, not ‘crunching numbers,’ which is why major fees have been paid to those who are supposed to be experts in the accounting fields.”

Asked about other causes she is devoted to, Warwick said, “I have and continue to be passionate about all health issues.”

Warwick was also asked how she accounts for her enduring career and popularity. “I suppose being consistent with regard to who I am and my continued work within the areas that I have been involved,” she said.

The gala took place at Chelsea Piers, on the West Side of Manhattan. We asked about her favorite experiences in New York, and Warwick responded, “New York is one of the most exciting cities in the world and I have had many wonderful times and experiences there.”

We wondered who some of her favorite performers are today. “I enjoy many of the iconic entertainers that I have had the pleasure of knowing and being mentored by,” she said.

Before her performance, Warwick told the audience about the surprised reaction of her tax attorney when she informed him about her upcoming gig for the New York State Society of CPAs. “You’re performing for who?!” he said.

The keynote speaker was Frank K. Ross, director of Howard University’s Center for Accounting Education, who received the NYSSCPA’s first ever Lifetime Achievement Award. In his acceptance speech, he recalled the words of an old song, “If I can help somebody along the way, then my living will not be in vain.”

“As I look back, I can truly say I have stayed true to the words of this song,” he said. “We are members of a great profession. Over the years, I have worked with and worked for very sincere and very committed individuals. Several of those individuals mentored me throughout my career without asking for anything in return. I’ve always tried to say thank you to them by making sure that I in return mentor those entering this profession and hopefully help them find their way to a successful career. Today, I see us, the accounting profession, having an opportunity that in many ways is similar to the opportunity that led to the founding of NABA [the National Association of Black Accountants], an opportunity that we can make this a truly diverse profession. What it will take is a profession-wide commitment to making sure that the best and the brightest young students—whether we’re talking about middle school, high school, community college, or four-year university—select accounting as their profession of choice.”

Outgoing NYSSCPA president Joseph Falbo Jr., a partner at Tronconi Segarra & Associates in Buffalo, N.Y., introduced Ross along with the other speakers. “I have a difficult time summing up this past year,” he told the attendees. “I’m standing up here 354 days into my term and I have 12 days remaining. I did not want to waste one minute of this gift that you all have given me. It’s a gift that only 95 other men and women have had the privilege to experience over our 118 years of existence. Please continue to carry the torch of this profession and in doing so please pass it on to the next generation. There has never been a better time to be a CPA than right now.”

The event also marked the installation of incoming NYSSCPA president F. Michael Zovistoski, a managing director at UHY LLP, who begins his term on June 1. He announced that the COAP scholarship will now be named in honor of Frank Ross. Also starting June 1, the NYSSPCA will open its associate member level to other types of professionals, including lawyers and bankers. Zovistoski emphasized the role played by CPAs who volunteer in their communities, devoting thousands of hours of service to local churches, synagogues, food pantries and other nonprofit organizations. “No profession is better suited for volunteerism,” he said.

He paid tribute to the NYSSCPA’s late president David Moynihan, the namesake of the Moynihan Fund, who encouraged him to become more involved in the work of the Society. With outgoing president Falbo, Zovistoski has traveled across the country to meet with other CPAs and plans to carry on the work of leading the NYSSCPA.

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