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Woman of the Year a true leader

Stacy Pearson accepts the 2013 Idaho Business Review Woman of the Year Award Feb. 26. Photo by Cliff Marks, Jr.

When Stacy Pearson became the first in her family – from both sides of her parents’ families – to graduate from college, she did not know that simple act would frame her as a leader. But after she set the example, “many of my family members followed my lead and completed their college educations,” she said. It’s a significant accomplishment, and one in a long list.

Pearson credits her mother with emphasizing the value of a college education, but the person responsible for her career choice was her high school math teacher. Pearson won a trophy for her math skills. “I was kind of embarrassed,” she said, “but (my teacher) told me, ‘You’re very good in math. It will take you far.’”

In college, she took the advice of one of her professors, and majored in accounting – “because when you’re in accounting, you understand all of the operations,” Pearson said. Her professor told her that a career in accounting would see her through good times and bad, and that has so far rung true. Pearson had a job lined up right out of college and since then, “I have never been unemployed,” she said.

Her high school teacher was also right. Math has taken Pearson across the globe. In the 1990s, Pearson was the accounting delegate to the former Soviet Union, where she worked with accountants.

“Many women worked on the abacus,” Pearson said. “They were moving from communism to a free market, and they understood the company books.”

She also did a stint in Juneau, Alaska, a place, she said, “where you don’t need to bring your high heels.” She served as Alaska’s internal auditor and financial analyst and, through a grant program, helped bring sewer systems to rural areas where people had never before had the service.

In Oregon, she worked for the chancellor and was responsible for the internal audit and management review for eight of the state’s public colleges and universities.

"My greatest sense of accomplishment comes from working with my employees and colleagues to complete a significant project and celebrate the achievement together," said Stacy Pearson, pictured here with her executive assistant, Lola Michaels. Photo by Patrick Sweeney.

In her roles at Boise State, Pearson has served as financial liaison for the National Economics University Sustainability project in Hanoi, Vietnam, aimed at encouraging market-based business education. She structured more than $127 million in bonds to pay off debt and to finance a student recreation center, student housing expansion, two parking garages and a high-tech classroom building.

Boise State University President Bob Kustra said, “In the past nine years alone, Stacy has overseen an aggressive building and remodel program at the university, including a $300 million capital program that added 19 new facilities and more than 1.5 million square feet of new space. Her careful planning and fiscal management has transformed the footprint of Boise State.”

In addition, Pearson has served on and been the chair of more than a dozen executive committees, including the NCAA Compliance Review Committee, the Information Technology Governance Council and the President’s Executive Team. In addition, Pearson has worked on a number of nonprofits and was recently appointed board member to the Capital City Development Corporation.

Pearson continues to be a key leader on campus. Today, as the chief financial officer for BSU, with a budget of $400 million, students numbering more than 20,000 and more than 3,400 employees, she oversees all the financial, capital and administrative operations, including personnel, budgets and strategic plans.

“Her duties are vast and her responsibilities are too many to list,” said Kustra. “But to give you an idea of what she accomplishes here each day, she oversees finance and treasury, budget and planning, human resources, and information technology, as well as other areas such as tax and regulatory compliance and environmental health and safety. All these tasks require a diligent, thoughtful and compassionate leader.”

It seems that leading others is something she was born to do.

Sona Karentz Andrews worked closely with Pearson for six years as Boise State’s provost and vice president for academic affairs. Andrews is now with the same title working at Portland State University. She shared some of her thoughts about Pearson.

“What is different about her is that her leadership qualities and personal convictions make this more than just what she alone has done. It is what so many others have accomplished due to her investment in them as co-workers and people,” she said. “What I appreciate most about Stacy is that she understands that leadership is not about power and not about her, but rather about influence, problem-solving and inspiring others.”

Pearson, also a mother and a grandmother, says her mother and her grandmother were inspirational to her. One of the best pieces of advice she ever received: “If you’re not sure about how you should behave, consider if you would be OK if your grandmother read about it in the newspaper.”

About Jeanne Huff

Jeanne Huff is the special sections editor at IBR, editor of Women of the Year, Accomplished Under 40, CEOs of Influence, Money Makers, Leaders in Law, Corporate Guide to Event Planning as well as editor of custom publications including Welcome to Boise, Dining Decisions, Idaho Heartland Living and Travelog.