By Gerald D. Derechos, Andersen
Alumnus (1982-1997, Hartford, CT and 1997-2002, Stamford, CT) and
Managing Director, Andersen Tax
Last month, I had the pleasure of returning to St. Charles, IL. It’s a location most would not recognize as a major destination. But for those of us that spent weeks of our lives there, learning from the best and brightest, it is much more than that.
It’s been over fourteen years since thousands of proud Arthur Andersen alumni moved on to different firms, companies and opportunities. I have been fortunate to not only work with many of them at Andersen Tax (formerly WTAS LLC), but also to stay in contact with many others. I’ve lost track of the number of times when I have introduced myself as a former Arthur Andersen partner, only to hear, “Great firm, did you know John or Sally Smith?” Even more to the point, to have the person respond that they were former Andersen themselves, followed by a combination of catching up and reminiscing about where they are now and, “Remember St. Charles?”
Say what you will about St. Charles, it provided generations of professionals with not only outstanding foundation for client service and technical skills, but also many memories and friends. Remember the roommate thing, the showers down the hall, the “bar,” the 50 cent drink tickets, trips to Division and Rush Streets? No? Ok, wrong generation. How about the addition of the Tower and the Tower Dining Room (less like a college dorm, more like an International Education Center) , the Par 3, and the Recreation Center in the later years? And oh, yes the education part. The Eckto Industries case study for two weeks was a bit of a grind, but I— and many alumni-- do remember it as well as the many other learning opportunities offered in St Charles that provided the foundation for what differentiated Arthur Andersen from the competition.
After WTAS adopted the Andersen name in the fall of 2014, we asked Larry Weinbach to speak at several of our launch events which were attended by a mix of clients, Arthur Andersen alumni and other friends. Whenever he spoke, he made a point that resonated. It wasn’t that Andersen hired the most talented people. They got their fair share and maybe a bit more. What differentiated Arthur Andersen from the rest of the pack was the training. The last time I was in St. Charles it was 2001 as an Arthur Andersen partner. So, when I returned to St Charles as an Andersen Tax partner for our Management Meeting this June, it brought back a lot of memories about my time at Andersen. But, more importantly, it made me appreciate the place more than I ever had. I realized how important that place had been to my development into the professional I am today, and to the way that I have learned to develop others. Of course the name has been changed from the Center for Professional Education to the Q Center (https://www.qcenter.com/) and the Spacek Auditorium has been changed to the Fox River Ballroom. And try as I might, I couldn’t find the “Doors” anywhere. But times change and so must we. Wi-fi everywhere, technology equipped meeting spaces, updated hotel rooms, an outdoor barbeque and band pavilion, and finally a really nice Bistro Café where the (really) old original entrance to the Center used to be.
In our opening session, my partner, Dan DePaoli, talked about the fact that for many people, this was a return to “Our House.” So imagine yourself at the Recreation Center. It’s last call, late at night and with you are a bunch of people with similar values and memories. The karaoke machine is all warmed up. Now cue the rapper Flo Rida and the hit “Welcome to My House.” It actually happened just like that, and it was pretty cool.