A Passion for Solving Accounting Puzzles
Carla Keegan, MBA ’82
Director, Keegan, Linscott & Kenon, P.C.
By Liz Warren-Pederson
The semester before completing her undergraduate degree in political science, Carla Keegan agreed to take an accounting class on a pass/fail basis, just for the credit, to help out a friend who was intimidated by the coursework.
“Once I took the accounting class, everything clicked for me,” said Keegan. “I found myself saying, ‘Where have you been all my life?’” She decided to earn her MBA and her JD with the aim of going into tax law or business law.
But after the first accounting class of the MBA, it was clear she’d found her niche. “I dropped out of law school on the first day,” she said. Keegan cites having a great teacher as important in her discovery of accounting, but its intrinsic appeal was unequivocal. “Everything makes sense,” she said. “It’s like solving puzzles; everything has to balance. It’s also about helping people do the best they can.”
Keegan joined Coopers & Lybrand after graduation. “I got two weeks of vacation before I started,” she said, “but I would have taken more had I known that would be the last chance I’d get!” Keegan was with Coopers & Lybrand for 12 years.
“All the big eight — now the big four — were closing their Tucson offices,” she said. “We saw the handwriting on the wall – we weren’t in a big enough market for the big firms.” Keegan and two partners formed their own firm, Keegan, Linscott & Kenon, P.C.
“I got a good foundation at the UA, and I’d worked with small businesses at Coopers & Lybrand,” she said. She’d helped develop a new business kit for startups during her time at Coopers & Lybrand and was able to apply it to her own firm. It helped too that her ongoing passion for accounting work motivates her to get out of bed each morning. “Accounting is exciting, not dull like people think it is,” she said.
Keegan is also active in the community. “I believe that everyone who has been blessed to have a roof over their heads needs to give back,” she said. She grew up in a military family, attending eight schools in 12 years. The Army Community Services organization was there for her family every time they moved. And she learned an important fundraising lesson as a kid. “We wanted to hold a talent show, but why would anyone want to come?” she said. “So we made it into a fundraiser and everyone had to be there.”
This year, the Arizona Society for CPAs awarded her its Public Service Award. Keegan is a big believer in finding ways to give back on any scale. “I believe that no child should go to bed hungry,” she said. “If you don’t have time to volunteer at the food bank or a soup kitchen, you at least have time to take a look in your pantry and pull out a few things to donate.”
She has also stayed connected to the UA and to the Department of Accounting. “I was Dan Dhaliwal’s research assistant in school,” she said. “That’s made it easy to stay in touch.” Keegan, Linscott & Kenon, P.C. is on campus for the annual Meet the Firms event, interviews, and panel discussions for new students.
“We tell students they need to get as much out of school as possible — and why wouldn’t they?” she said. “Don’t avoid challenges; take the hard road, especially in school.”
In terms of hiring, Keegan said the firm wants people who want to stay in Tucson. “I love the lifestyle,” she said. “This is one of the best places in the world to live.”
For Keegan, though, a substantial part of her satisfaction in life derives from the field she works in. “It really is all about finding something that you love,” she said. “So I tell people that if you’re doing something you don’t like, don’t keep doing it. Many people I work with have had first careers doing something completely different. Don’t be afraid to change your career.”