The experience of earning a degree from the Max M. Fisher College of Business is transformational. From the classroom learning, to the peer interactions, to the lifelong connections that are forged, it’s an opportunity that allows for considerable growth.

For many students, a favorite faculty member makes the difference in their college experience. For students in the Accounting Honors Program at Ohio State from the late 1960s until 1994, a professor changed the lives of many future accountants by preparing them for the leap from college to life in the professional world.

That professor was Thomas J. Burns.

As transformations go, Professor Burns was part of a significant one during the years he taught at Fisher. His leadership and vision were instrumental in establishing Fisher’s Accounting Honors program as a top program in the nation. He was well-respected in the accounting profession. With a natural gift for teaching accounting, he challenged his students like no other.

He was also there for students like no other. Professor Burns was known to make phone calls to colleagues and professionals in the accounting industry, placing a good word for his students when they were looking for that first job after graduation. A recommendation from the legendary professor carried considerable weight, and it launched careers at highly sought-after organizations.

“So much of where the Department of Accounting and MIS at Fisher is today is the result of Tom’s leadership and tireless dedication to teaching and the accounting profession,” said Daniel Jensen, emeritus professor and executor of the Thomas J. Burns Trust. “Tom pushed his students by expecting a commitment to excellence, but the results were life-changing. While I respected him as a colleague, he also was a great friend.”

Sadly, Professor Burns passed away in 1996. To commemorate Professor Burns’ dedication to Ohio State and the accounting profession, Fisher launched the Thomas J. Burns Challenge in 2011. Initiated by Professor Jensen, Professor Burns’ estate matched dollar-for-dollar funds raised. Thanks to the generosity of alumni and friends, the Burns Challenge raised more than $1 million. These critical funds helped enrich the Accounting Honors Program that Professor Burns founded and to which he was so dedicated. The funds continue to help recruit and retain top students to the program, and they provide students opportunities to hone leadership and networking skills.

Today, Professor Burns’ legacy lives on through the Accounting Honors program at Fisher. Each year, Accounting Honors students travel to a different city to meet and network with professionals in the accounting field—many of whom are Fisher alumni. The Thomas J. Burns Accounting Honors Endowment Fund helps support these experiential learning opportunities. These trips are an invaluable part of the program because the networking opportunities and company visits help introduce students to potential career paths within the accounting profession.

This past spring, Accounting Honors students traveled to San Francisco, where they visited the offices of Deloitte, EY, KPMG and PwC—the Big Four Accounting firms. Additionally, they had networking opportunities at BDO as well as meetings with representatives from Western Digital, Uber and TPG Capital.

The students met with Accounting Honors alumni Ibi Krukrubo, of EY, and Michael Renn and Colin Whitman, of Uber. Additionally, they visited with Fisher alumnus Steve Milligan, of Western Digital.

Other recent Accounting Honors trips have included visits to London and New York City.

Experiential learning opportunities like these ensure that Professor Burns’ legacy continues to inspire and support students’ academic endeavors as they prepare for careers as tomorrow’s generation of great accountants.