On, Alumnae: Larzette Hale-Wilson

Larzette Hale-Wilson, pictured with accountant Milton Wilson, became the first African American woman in the country to earn a PhD in accounting. Courtesy of Theresa A. Hammond

Larzette Hale-Wilson MPh’43, PhD’55 was the first female African American CPA to earn a PhD in accounting. Orphaned at age 11, she overcame many obstacles to rise to the top of her field. She encountered a steady stream of racism — for instance, when she sat for the CPA exam in 1951, Hale-Wilson was told to sit in the back of the room and was not allowed to use the lunchroom — but she didn’t let it get in her way.

After completing her master’s degree, she taught at Clark College in Atlanta. One of her former UW accounting professors encouraged her to return to Wisconsin for her doctorate, and with her degree in hand, Hale-Wilson established her own CPA firm in Atlanta.

Hale-Wilson later served as a professor of accounting for nearly 20 years at Utah State University and head of its School of Accountancy for 13 years. Utah’s governor appointed her to the State Committee on Cultural Awareness, and she served on the Utah Board of Regents. Hale-Wilson was the national president for the American Woman’s Society of CPAs and also for the honor society for accounting and finance students, Beta Alpha Psi. She initiated a series of booklets called the Heritage Series to recognize the accomplishments of contemporary African American women.

Hale-Wilson accepted frequent speaking engagements to inspire younger accounting professionals, and in 1993, the Wisconsin School of Business honored her as a Distinguished Accounting Alumna.

As part of the On Wisconsin women’s issue, see other UW alumnae you oughta know.

Published in the Summer 2019 issue

Tags: Alumni, Business, Campus history

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