Press Southworth IIIPress Southworth III (BSBA ’75) is executive director of the Jazz Arts Group of Columbus, a role in which he has served for the past seven years, a member of the Fisher College of Business Alumni Board and a member of the university’s President’s Club. A decorated U.S. Army veteran, he shares his story about being a first-generation student at Ohio State, the accounting and business leaders that shaped him, and the career shift that took him from accounting into the arts.

What is your connection to Ohio State?

I grew up in Columbus, and The Ohio State University was always part of my life. Everyone knows that I am a Buckeye through and through.

Describe your experience as a member of the military and how it intersected with your education at Ohio State.

Press Southworth III Army photo
Press Southworth III

I grew up in Columbus and have always been a Buckeye. After high school, I was drafted by the U.S. Army and served four-and-a-half years including a tour in Vietnam. I went through Officer Candidate School and graduated as a lieutenant, eventually becoming a captain.

After the Army, I decided to stay close to home and study at Ohio State on the G.I. Bill. At that point, I was married to Joan — a Columbus native and 1969 graduate from what is now the College of Education and Human Ecology — and had two young children.

I was proud that as a military veteran, as a first-generation student at Ohio State and as someone with a family, I completed my course work in three years and was named a Pace Setter and the outstanding scholar leader in 1975.

How has Ohio State/Fisher equipped, prepared you or made a difference in your career?

Being selected as part of the accounting debate team and then competing as a member helped build my confidence in public speaking, which I’ve found to be invaluable throughout my career.

Talk about your career and how you moved from accounting to becoming a business leader in the arts.

When I worked for PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, I made it a goal to be involved in the community. I did this by choosing at least one school or church organization, one health and welfare organization and one arts organization.

I was a past chair of the Opera Columbus board and was newly retired when the Opera ran into some financial difficulties. I joined the organization as a four-month volunteer business manager. That role eventually turned into a full-time executive director position, where I spent five years.

Then I assumed the presidency of the Columbus Cultural Leadership Consortium and became a community arts leader in that respect. I am now at the Jazz Arts Group, where I have served as executive director for the past seven years. In total, I have led 10 nonprofit organizations over the years, including the Ohio Society of CPAs, the local chapter of the Institute of Management Accountants, Prevent Blindness Ohio and March of Dimes of Central Ohio.

Do you have a favorite business faculty member or mentor who helped shape who you are today?

Tom Burns taught the honors class in accounting. I couldn’t afford to devote the extra time needed to be in the honors class, but he involved me anyway.

Robert Georges was an assistant dean of the business school and a retired military officer. He helped answer many of my questions and helped me create a schedule that fit everything into my day.

After I completed my degree, I became involved with Pace Setters and through that, I helped to raise funds to establish the Robert E. Georges Senior Award, which is presented to a graduating senior at Fisher in recognition of academic excellence and outstanding leadership. In 1975, I received a similar honor from Ohio State President Harold Enarson. And in 2009, I received the Pace Setter Executive Award — bringing it all full circle.

What is your favorite business school-related memory from Ohio State/Fisher?

I was proud to have the highest grade in each of my accounting classes and to serve as a tutor for a business education student, who finished with the second-highest grade in their class.

Did you have a favorite spot on campus? Why was it special?

Mirror Lake. It was where I shared a first kiss with the young lady who would later become my wife for the past 51 years…and counting.

What does being in the President’s Club mean to you?

It is rewarding to see The Ohio State University recognize my commitment to this great institution and to know that it is setting an example for others.

What advice would you give to a current student or recent Fisher graduate?

Take your class work seriously, as it is the foundation for your future.

Why do you give to Ohio State and what has been the most rewarding part of giving?

As a first-generation and military veteran student at Ohio State, the education and guidance I received from the faculty and staff provided me with the opportunity for a successful career. Paying forward to future generations is very important to me. I have seen the benefits that Fisher College of Business provided my daughter, Jennifer Southworth (BSBA '00), that have enabled her and her successful career at UPS.

Why would you encourage others to give?

I am particularly committed to supporting Fisher College of Business. The importance of quality and ethical leadership in business is important to the success of our nation. In order to have quality faculty and facilities, it requires the support of those of us who reaped the benefits of our experience at The Ohio State University.

Additional content provided by The Ohio State University Office of Advancement
Photo by Kevin Fitzsimons