A 2019 study by management consulting firm McKinsey found that companies in the top quartile of executive-level diversity outperformed those in the bottom quartile by more than 35 percent.

Smeal’s Accounting External Advisory Board created the Accounting External Advisory Board Diversity Scholarship in 2021 to support students whose gender, race, ethnic, cultural, and/or national background contribute to the diversity of the student body.

They also endowed the Joe Cramer Accounting External Advisory Board Diversity and Inclusion Fund to provide financial support to students in need, support conference travel and experiential learning opportunities, and otherwise bolster the mission of the department, particularly as it relates to initiatives around diversity, equity, and inclusion.

“Improving diversity in the workplace begins by increasing diversity in colleges and universities nationwide,” says Henock Louis, KPMG Professor of Accounting and Chair of the Accounting Department at Penn State Smeal.

“At Smeal, we believe it is vital to our mission that we work together to ensure that historically underrepresented students have access to everything that Penn State has to offer.”

The fund is named for former professor of accounting James “Joseph” Cramer Jr., who earned his Ph.D. in 1963. According to the American Accounting Association, Cramer became “the sixty-third African American CPA in 1961 and the ninth African American to hold a doctorate in accounting … and was the first Black tenure-track accounting professor at a predominantly white institution.” He is also believed to be Smeal’s first Black faculty member.

According to the University’s review of pioneering African American faculty and staff, Cramer was appointed to the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants’ Committee on Recruitment from Disadvantaged Groups in 1968. He continued this work as a member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity.

“Joe Cramer was dedicated to helping students of color have the same chance for success as white students,” Louis said. “I believe that makes the board’s decision to name the fund in his honor especially meaningful.”