By Deanna C. White
From the moment he decided to become a CPA, Jeremy Dillard knew he wanted his career to be about more than billable hours and client service. He also had a calling to serve – the desire to give back to his community and his profession.
"For me, chargeable hours and client service are important because they provide the means [of being a CPA], but they aren't the goal of a career as a CPA", said Dillard, who is a partner with Rivera, Jamjian & Dillard, LLP (RJ&D). "I found that a combination of volunteering for my profession and in the community made my experience as a CPA most fulfilling."
On August 8, the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) honored Dillard's commitment to service when it named Dillard winner of winner of the Maximo Mukelabai Award at the AICPA's E.D.G.E. Conference for leadership development in Austin, Texas.
Dillard received the annual award for his dedication to the advancement of the accounting profession and his volunteer work within his community in California.
"It's humbling to be recognized with the Maximo Mukelabai Award, and even more special to me that the profession recognizes volunteerism by younger CPAs", Dillard said.
The Maximo Mukelabai award honors young CPAs for their passion and contributions toward building the CPA pipeline, their advocacy of the accounting profession, and their record of outstanding community service.
"A talented author and speaker, Jeremy has devoted his time and energy into projects which have helped advance the profession", said Jeannie Patton, AICPA vice president, Academics, Professional Pathways, and Inclusion. "His extensive commitment to volunteer work in his community, as well as his service to the AICPA and the California Society of CPAs, embody the values the Maximo Mukelabai Award represents."
Dillard has a long history of public service in the greater Los Angeles area. He has volunteered for the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Parade since 2000, and the Weingart East Los Angeles YMCA since 2006. Dillard said volunteering for each of these organizations gives him a distinct feeling of fulfillment.
"The Tournament of Roses is a dynamic organization that strives to continually implement best practices for a not-for-profit. Contributing to such a prestigious event that's viewed by over a billion people is a rare opportunity", Dillard said.
One of Dillard's roles in the upcoming Rose Parade is to turn the floats in front of the TV cameras. It's the one occasion where blending into the background is rewarded, Dillard jokes.
"I'm hoping everything goes smoothly and the audience won't even notice me", Dillard said.
Dillard said his work with the Weingart East Los Angeles YMCA "holds a special place in his heart" because it provides help and services to a community in need.
"This YMCA branch helps a community with one of the highest poverty rates in the United States. So it's a situation where the community needs the YMCA and its programs", Dillard said. "Our YMCA branch has become one of the three pilot branches across the country where programs are tested first before being implemented nationally. We are collaborating with local universities, hospitals, and other not-for-profit organizations to bring innovative solutions to make a difference in the community."
The Weingart East Los Angeles YMCA runs larger initiatives, like its Youth Institute, which has a computer lab to help high school students learn film production and editing, as well as smaller programs like YMCA Camp Whittle, which takes city children on day trips ninety miles outside of East Los Angeles to experience the mountains for the first time.
"The commonality of volunteering for both the Tournament of Roses and the Weingart East Los Angeles YMCA is they both have activities that keep me enthusiastic about what they do, the people they impact, and what lies ahead", Dillard said.
In addition to his work for these two organizations, Dillard was recognized by Congress for his volunteer work on projects to provide assistance to low-income families during the holidays as well as his work with the Pasadena Special Olympics. In addition, he has received the Presidential Service Award from the California Junior Chamber of Commerce in both 2000 and 2003 and has been recognized by the City of Los Angeles for his volunteer efforts.
Dillard has also worked extensively to advance the accounting profession through the AICPA Governing Council and the Technical Issues Committee. He has volunteered as for the Examinations FAR Committee and served as a technical reviewer for the AICPA's IFRS Certificate Program. Dillard has contributed to multiple AICPA publications, including Save Wisely, Spend Happily.
Additionally, he is currently a member of the California Society of CPAs (CalCPA) Governing Council and was recently appointed to CalCPA's Accounting Principles & Auditing Standards committee.
Dillard said his interest in volunteering and service sparked when he was in high school, and it has dovetailed naturally into his career as a CPA – a profession that encourages public service and giving back.
It's perhaps especially fitting that Dillard, whose commitment to volunteering was solidified after a close friend passed away at a young age, is being honored with the Maximo Mukelabai Award. The AICPA created the award as a tribute to the legacy of Maximo Mukelabai – a young CPA whose colleagues said was an extraordinary individual, filled with intellect, inspiration, warmth, and a passion for service – who passed away at an early age.
Mukelabai was a member of the inaugural class of the AICPA Leadership Academy and the youngest chair of the North Carolina Association of CPAs board of directors. Tragically, his life ended abruptly at the age of thirty-six.
"Similar to Maximo's passing at a young age, I had a close friend I lost while we were in college", Dillard said. "Ever since then, I've tried to live my life so that I won't have regrets that I should've done more. My friend doesn't have that chance anymore to make a difference, so it's important to me that I do what I can, while I can."
Dillard said he is incredibly honored to receive this honor because it means he is living up to Maximo's example. "Maximo set a standard of professionalism that extends beyond providing client services to also include making a difference that impacts the community as well as the profession", said Dillard.
It's a legacy, Dillard said, he hopes all young CPAs will take the time to craft in their own careers.
"Just to be a CPA means that someone has accumulated a significant amount of knowledge and experience. These skills can greatly benefit our own profession as well as the communities in which we live", Dillard said. "Throughout my career, I've met CPAs who are talented and work hard. I truly believe that using our skills as CPAs to help benefit others is necessary to having a rewarding career and something employers should promote."