A life devoted to accounting, law and social justice leads DU alum to generous giving
You might conclude that being good with numbers is a Whittemore family trait. At least six relatives in Dan Whittemore’s family are CPAs or accountants. So, it seemed likely that a career in accounting was Whittemore’s destiny too.
But it didn’t start out that way. In fact, Whittemore’s father, Leslie, hoped to continue in the construction industry when a World War II injury changed his trajectory. He moved his family to Denver, specifically so he could attend the University of Denver (DU). Not only did Whittemore and Whittemore’s father graduate from DU, two of Whittemore’s brothers are also graduates of DU’s accounting program.
Dan Whittemore’s (BSBA 1963, JD 1972) accounting journey started long before college. To get some of his seven siblings out of the house during the summers, his father would take Dan and his two brothers on road trips. They spent their summers throughout high school and college doing audits for schools.
“I learned audits backwards and forwards before I was at DU,” Whittemore said. Whittemore pursued his associate of arts degree from Graceland College in Lamoni, Iowa, before attending DU. He and his twin brother, Richard, graduated from DU in 1963.
“Because I had been working part-time throughout school, I already had three years of experience when I sat for the CPA exam,” he shared. “I was the youngest CPA in the state at the time because two years of experience is required and most students didn’t have that yet. I got my CPA license immediately.”
Whittemore’s career is vast, working in private accounting firms, being an imbedded accountant for organizations, even teaching. In his early years, he came back to DU to pursue his law degree. Accounting, law and education were important to Whittemore throughout his career and served him well when he worked as the state controller under Gov. Dick Lamm.
“It was the most stressful job I had, but also the most productive,” he said. “I just really loved it.”
As controller, Whittemore was able to bring the same accounting systems that corporations used—generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP)—to improve the systems the state of Colorado had been using.
Bill Stolfus was the associate vice president of finance for Colorado State University at that time.
“Dan worked to set up accounting standards. It was helpful to higher education and to raise the importance of higher education with the state,” Stolfus said. “Dan was instrumental in that process.”
In addition to that position, Whittemore served as the controller of Chicago Public Schools, the finance vice president for the Colorado State Board of Community Colleges and Occupational Education and the vice chancellor for Business and Administration for the 10 Maricopa community colleges in Phoenix, Arizona.
While he was in Arizona, he and his wife, Beth, would visit one of the 21 Native American reservations in the state.
“I loved my 20 years in community college management,” Whittemore said. “The whole idea of an all-inclusive enrollment where not one student is weeded out is important.”
Over time, Whittemore used his legal background to become sensitized in Native American rights, even returning to DU to teach classes at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) and taking numerous classes on Native American topics at the Iliff School of Theology, where he received his Master’s of Theological Studies.
“I really enjoy teaching classes at OLLI,” Whittemore shared. “The course, Legal Rights of Indians and Tribes, really helps the white culture understand how the laws are different for Native Americans. It has nothing to do with race but rather a result of treaties and laws developed years and years ago.”
Tink Tinker, Clifford Baldrige Emeritus Professor of American Indian Cultures and Religious Traditions at the Iliff School of Theology, got to know Whittemore through his studies at Iliff.
“Dan has a deep, deep commitment to American Indian people,” Tinker said. “He is very, very focused. He’s legally trained but a businessman. He has used his resources to try and make a difference in Indian education.”
Whittemore and his wife have been incredibly generous to DU. They recently created a scholarship fund to help Native American students pursue a degree in accounting or another business major. This is in addition to the Whittemores’ two scholarships at the Sturm College of Law, funding to support a Native American Rights Project Director at the law school and a gift to provide training on Native American artifacts for DU’s Center for Art Collection Ethics.
Whittemore also recently received the School of Accountancy’s Alumnus of the Year Award. As his nomination submission noted: “The mission of the Daniels College is pioneering business for the public good. Dan lives this every day and is most deserving of this award.”
His advice to accounting students, including those who receive the accountancy scholarship, is:
“Credentials are important. You can start at a two-year college, but pick a prestigious university for your final degree. Teach others; if you tutor fellow students, you’ll understand the material better,” he said. “Don’t focus just on accounting. Expand interest; accountants at coffee hour can be quite boring if you can’t talk about something other than accounting.”