Alan Burton, Great Bend, a 2005 Fort Hays State University graduate with a Bachelor of Business Administration in accounting, is one of 39 winners nationwide -- out of a pool of 92,000 -- of the 2012 Elijah Watt Sells Award of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA).
Burton is a Certified Public Accountant with Adams, Brown, Beran & Ball, Chartered, Great Bend.
He is the second FHSU graduate to be named a Sells Award winner in the last three years. Burton earned the award by meeting two difficult objectives: He obtained a cumulative average score above 95.50 across all four sections of the Uniform CPA Examination, and he passed all four sections of the examination on his first attempt.
The difficulty is illustrated by the fact that only 39 candidates met the criteria out of the 92,000 who sat for the examination for the first time in 2012.
"I have to give credit to my educators throughout the years, there at Fort Hays State and back to high school, and to my co-workers here at Adams, Brown, Beran & Ball," said Burton.
"And," he added, "to my family for putting up with me. I was studying through Christmas Day one year, and my thought was, 'I don't want to have to be doing this next Christmas.' "
Another FHSU graduate, Seth Albin, was one of nine winners, out of more than 90,000, for the 2010 testing cycle.
"It is our privilege to have students of that caliber," said Dr. Charlie Gnizak, professor of economics, finance and accounting at FHSU. "All we can say is he got his start here, but after you leave school, there's another 200-300 hours you put in to prepare for the exam."
Reflecting on the fact that Albin was a Sells winner in the 2010 testing year, and Burton made the cut in 2012, Gnizak said, "If you get one student in that category, that's quite rare, but we had two, practically back to back. That is amazing!"
"I can't even begin to tell you how many hours I put in preparing for it," said Burton, a 2001 graduate of Russell High School. "My initial intent was to go through and not have to retake any section. That was my goal, and I guess I met that."
He said he took the Becker Professional Education CPA Exam Review Course online, which is equivalent to nine hours of graduate work.
"I'm thrilled to be done with it, and kind of dumbfounded," he said. "I never expected to receive anything of this magnitude, and I am humbled. I would never have thought I was anywhere near capable of something like this. Some people might tell you different, but not me."
His conclusion: "I just worked that hard," he said, with a smile that transmitted clearly through the phone.
However, Ken Beran, CPA, managing partner of Adams, Brown, Beran & Ball, is one who "might tell you different."
"It comes as no surprise that Alan was a top scorer in his CPA exam testing cycle. He has proven to be a first-class professional, continually focused on enhancing his knowledge and better serving his clients," said Beran. "We extend our congratulations to Alan and look forward to his growth within the company."
The Elijah Watt Sells Award program was established in 1923 by the AICPA to recognize outstanding performance on the CPA Examination. Sells, who passed away in 1924, was one of the country's first CPAs under the provision of a New York State law enacted in 1896. He was active in the establishment of the AICPA and was a leader in advancing professional education in the profession. He was a founder of New York University’s School of Commerce, Accounts and Finance. The Sells award was created by the AICPA in 1923 in his honor.
For more information on the exam, visit http://www.aicpa.org/cpa-exam.