The Right Person at the Right Time: Alumna Honored with Outstanding Service Award

When Mary Jo Richard agrees to volunteer with an organization, she contributes more than her name and meeting time.

“I’m going to work,” she says. “There’s so much need for that.”

That has certainly been her attitude while serving on the board of the MSUM Foundation for nine years, eight years as its treasurer. Before that, she also served on the advisory board for the university’s Paseka School of Business.

In honor of her efforts, MSUM named Richard the recipient of the 2021 Outstanding Service Award. The award is given annually in recognition of significant time and talent given to MSUM.

“She is somebody who has brought a vision for what the foundation could be,” says Gary Haugo, vice president for university advancement. “She has a genuine sense of how to do the right thing. When she’s involved, you get all of Mary Jo.”

Richard enrolled in what is now MSUM in 1976 and left three years later with an associate degree in business management. She returned to the university in 1986 to complete her bachelor’s degree in accounting.

She studied accounting because she was confident that she could secure a good job in the field. The subject also matched the way her brain worked. After graduation, she accepted a job at Eide Bailly as a CPA and remained with the company for her entire career.

Richard was promoted to partner in May 2000, the first female partner in Fargo’s home office and the third in the firm. For her professional achievements, Richard received the MSUM Distinguished Alumni Award in 2011. She worked at Eide Bailly for 34 years and retired in 2020 as an audit partner.

Even as she enjoyed her career, Richard felt it was important to give back. She was especially drawn to volunteering at MSUM.

Richard served on the advisory board for the Paseka School of Business while it sought – and achieved – accreditation. She then agreed to take her talents to the foundation board. During her service, the foundation grew from $10 million to $50 million. She was key in guiding the foundation’s accounting processes so they would meet financial reporting standards and clearly track donor wishes.

“When you grow that quickly, you want to make sure everything is done correctly and there’s an audit trail,” she says. “With my work experience, I was the right person at the right time to help get those accounting records in place.”

This year, the audit went through without any deficiencies – an accomplishment Richard is particularly proud of. It signifies the strength of the process and the hard work of recent staff, she says.

In addition to volunteering at MSUM, Richard has served on the local Girl Scout council board and with the North Dakota Society of CPAs.

“When I talk to people, I tell them to take time to think about what you do with your volunteer hours,” she says. “You want to find a place where you can contribute and then do it whole-heartedly.”

Richard’s term on the foundation board is complete; she is excited to fully retire. Her fifth grandchild was born recently. She has books to read and scrapbooks to complete. She and her husband, Paul Richard, also plan to travel.

“Everything’s in a great place right now, so it feels good to hand off the work and the oversight,” she says.


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