Remembering BNA's Susan Webster

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(L-R Francine McKenna, Edith Orenstein, Susan Webster, at FEI CFRI 2008)

This time of year, when it's CFRI season (on the eve of FEI's 29th annual Current Financial Reporting Issues Conference) I think back fondly to my first meeting with BNA Managing Editor Susan Webster.

That first meeting was over coffee after I finished working the registration desk the eve of CFRI 2007. I remember discussing with Susan at that first informal meeting not only current events of the day (in the world of accounting standard-setting and the regulatory environment) but also sharing stories about other common threads in our lives, including the challenges and joys of having teens and tweens, the advent of Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus, and the use of social networks and technology by our generation vis-a-vis that of our children.

Our working relationship grew, albeit virtually, as I reached out to Susan for contacts/guidance on seeking permission to link to some of BNA's outstanding - indeed, exceptional - reporting, as I was a subscriber to BNA's Daily Report for Executives. She was very helpful in getting me in touch with the right people to be granted permission on occassion to reprint/post such material on our website and link to it in our blog. We also shared informal views with each other from time to time on topics of interest in our separate publications.

The following year, at CFRI 2008, I had the pleasure of joining together with Francine McKenna, Managing Editor of the blog Re: The Auditors, Steve Burkholder, BNA Staff Correspondent covering the FASB beat, and Susan Webster, for an informal dinner. [I remember specifically requesting that our entire conversation be 'off the record' and it was a fascinating evening indeed.]

Susan was also a member of a panel presentation coordinated and moderated by Francine at the Maryland Association of CPAs (MACPA's) June, 2009 Business Expo. Other panelists included former FEI President and CEO Colleen Cunningham, now Global Managing Director, Finance and Accounting, at Resources Global, and Joanne O'Rourke Hindman, Special Advisor to Board Member Steven B. Harris of the PCAOB. As usual, Susan shared the depth and breadth of knowledge that comes with the access BNA Editors and Correspondents have on Capitol Hill and beyond, and she provided helpful handouts from BNA explaining complex legislative developments and regulation.

The more I got to know leading journalists like Susan Webster, Steve Burkholder, Francine McKenna, and others, like CPA Trendlines Editor and Bay Street Group President & CEO Rick Telberg, the more I became interested in enhancing my journalistic skills to improve the quality of this blog. Susan and Rick were unmatched in their willingness to have me reach out to them and provide their support and insights, for which I am deeply grateful.

When CFRI rolled around again in November 2009, Susan was not able to attend (at the time, I did not know why). As Fall turned to Winter, she shared with me confidentially that she was facing some significant health issues. I remember speaking to her in January 2010 and our conversation was pretty much business as usual, without Susan dwelling on the gravity of her health issues; in fact, as I recall, I got the feeling that she was hopeful for the future.

Thus, it was with great sadness that I learned earlier this year of Susan passing away from her illness. I have wanted to write about her for quite some time since then, and now that CFRI 2010 is here (the 'anniversary' of my first meeting Susan) I felt it was time to put my thoughts to paper (to the screen?), in honor of her memory and how much she contributed to my own development and that of others who have shared their remembrances of Susan, here.

In addition, I welcome others to post a comment with your thoughts and memories of Susan, or thoughts about how a person within your own firm or organization, or in a shared industry or area of interest, has really make a difference in your life, the lives of members of that profession or organization, or the profession or community at large. (Readers of the FEI blog tend to be a shy group, but we always welcome your comments.)


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