Profiles of individuals in roles that support the work of the chief business officer—and who represent the majority of the Business Officer reading audience.
By Margo Vanover Porter
Copeland Aces Dual Roles
Fresh out of college with an accounting degree, Greg Copeland landed a coveted spot at what was then Coopers & Lybrand. His first day on the job, he joined an audit of Gonzaga University, Spokane, Washington, where he was hired as the assistant controller several years later.
“It almost seems preordained that I was going to be in higher ed,” Copeland says, looking back on his two and a half decades as a business officer. “I love the environment, with students out and about walking the halls. The energy. The people are friendly and hard working.”
Now Linfield College's director of budget and financial analysis, Copeland also serves as the men's golf coach, leading the Wildcats to three Northwest Conference championships. He has been married for 27 years and has three children, the youngest a freshman at Linfield. For personal renewal,he enjoys hunting, fishing, and basketball.
What's the most stressful season for you?
The November/December time period. November is when we pull all the budget data together for the next fiscal year. In December, we have a lot of meetings to come up with a balanced budget.
Ever have trouble coordinating your two very different roles as budget director and men's golf coach?
Fortunately, September, October, March, and April are the months when golf is in full swing, which is the quiet time for budget. That works in my favor. So I can sneak out and go to practice three or four times a week in the late afternoons. Plus, many of our golf matches are on the weekend. I spend most of my weekends on golf.
Sounds like golf may interfere with your personal life more than it does with work.
Which is why my wife, Leslie, considers golf a four-letter word.
What do you wish were different about your work?
Maybe more interaction with people. I do a lot of number crunching and moving figures around, but I currently don't supervise anyone. I miss that. I'm in my own little world much of the time.
What skill do you find yourself using that you never thought you'd need?
Well, I always knew I would need my communication skills. I guess maybe golf. In my business profession, I never thought I would need that.
So how did you end up becoming the golf coach?
I had started a staff golf league here. Golf isn't considered a high-profile sport for the college, so when the prior coach—who was an art professor—stepped down in 2000, I was approached to take over the coaching duties.
What's your handicap?
It's 10, which for amateur golf is not too bad, but it's not to the level of my players.
Do you have a business mentor in your background?
My boss, Rick Jones, at Gonzaga. I learned a lot from him, including a good work ethic. He allowed me to get my feet wet in all the different areas of accounting and the audit process.
Any mentoring yourself?
I like to think I've taught some of my golfers a little about having a work ethic and being responsible.
What surprising tip have you learned from them?
Just showing up every day with passion for what you do will make you perform better.
In your opinion, what's the biggest issue you see facing your profession right now?
The high cost of higher education, especially private higher education.
And your solution?
We're going to have to find programs that are a real draw. We can't continue just offering liberal arts education without differentiating ourselves from other institutions, or, we won't be able to compete. Let's face it. With the bad economy, people are having a hard time meeting college costs in the $40,000 to $50,000 range.
MARGO VANOVER PORTER, Locust Grove, Virginia, covers higher education business issues for Business Officer.