I once knew a grizzled veteran of public relations, who spent the majority of his working life doing what he did best for one of the major automobile manufacturers. But in his much younger years, during the 1950s, he was proficient enough with a putter and nine-iron to earn a spot on the University of North Carolina golf team, which at the time boasted one of the better squads of collegiate duffers.
Traditionally, one of their biggest matches was against intra-state rival Wake Forest, against whom they had racked up several successive wins.
One year, before their annual dogfight against Wake, his coach told the team that the rival school had recruited a young phenom from Latrobe, Pa., a small town about an hour outside Pittsburgh.
Despite an unorthodox swing, this strapping kid, the coach said, could effortlessly drive the ball 300 yards and was equally deadly with his short game.
My acquaintance said that his team was beaten the first time they witnessed an 18-year-old Arnold Palmer stroll out to the practice tees, his arms bursting out of a white T-shirt, his shoulders wide enough to seat a family of four for dinner. The young Palmer then proceeded to hit several drives somewhere in the vicinity of Myrtle Beach. My friend knew at that moment that the old guard had changed radically.
The accounting profession, fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your vantage point, does not change quite that quickly -- but it has changed nonetheless.
This issue, we proudly present our annual Top 100 Most Influential People feature, which should stir more than a few debates between now and oh, say, Thanksgiving.
But no matter how you feel about this year's selections, few would argue that there haven't just been changes in the profession, there have been quantum changes.
As regular readers, many of you will notice that some members of the old Top 100 are gone, supplanted by a new cadre of influence wielders. Some of the recent inductees have been welcomed by the profession, and others, particularly those in the regulatory and enforcement channels, have not exactly been received with open arms by many.
Nevertheless they are here, no doubt for at least the foreseeable future, and therefore have earned a spot on the Top 100 roster.
As a striking example of how the old accounting order changeth, two years ago, there was no viable Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, just an order from Congress to create one. But this year, PCAOB Chairman William McDonough was judged the profession's most influential by the 2004 members of the century club.
As usual, there are bound to be some controversial picks, but that's the case with any similar ranking. Earlier this year in this very space I appealed to you to submit your selections for the class of 2004, and many of you did.
For that, we thank you, because some write-in nominations were for candidates that we hadn't strongly considered or who, for some reason, flew below our radar screen. Getting outside perspectives is just one of the reasons we encourage nominations from people who toil on the front lines of the profession instead of monitoring it from 30,000 feet.
Regardless of your reaction, we're sure you will enjoy the 2004 feature as much as in the past. And if by chance it elicits some controversy, ignites a lively discussion or even prompts letters to the editor, we'll take pride in the fact that we've done our job.
-- Bill Carlino

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