Adding It All Up
Stacy Mills, BSBA ’87, chose Suffolk University because she identified with the “roll-up-your-sleeves-and-get-it-done” philosophy that she saw here during her admission tour. It was the kind of ethic she had learned from her parents growing up in Billerica, Massachusetts.
After graduating with a degree in accounting in 1987, Mills worked in public accounting and then at State Street and Putnam Investments, a subsidiary of Marsh & McLennan Companies (MMC). Upon the sale of Putnam, she moved to New York City with MMC, where she’s now global controller and chief accounting officer.
Mills recently gave a gift to support the Accounting program and also established multiple scholarships for accounting majors. To celebrate her generosity, the University will rename the Blue Sky Lounge in Sargent Hall in her honor.
Recently, she sat down to talk about her time at Suffolk, what it takes to be a successful leader, and why she’s giving back.
Q: Marsh & McLennan operates in over 130 countries around the world. That’s a lot to keep track of. What worries you when you get to the office every day?
Stacy Mills: Making sure we get things right. I have about 2,000 accountants around the world reporting to me, and they are the engine that produces timely and accurate financial reporting for the business in the many geographies in which we operate. So are we giving the businesses the right information that they need? Are we interpreting it for them? Is it timely? You’ve got to make sure it's right.
Q: Why did you choose Suffolk?
SM: My dad was an electrician, my parents didn’t go to college, and we didn’t have a lot of money. So I wanted to go to the best school that I could go to that I could afford. One of the big deciding factors about coming to Suffolk was I felt like everybody else here was going to be like me. I didn't want to go to a school where I was the only one working every day.
Q: What was it like once you were here?
SM: I met so many other fantastic students. We were all kind of the same, all of us finding our way. I think that develops motivation and dedication. I was a full-time student. I had a part-time job. I worked a couple jobs in the summer. I look back now and I think, “Who was that girl?” I was busy!
Q: Where did you work when you were a student?
SM: I worked for a company called CRA on Long Wharf. I took most of my classes in the morning, and I worked for the company in the afternoon. I did their accounts payable and accounts receivable by hand. They were really great.
Q: You recently made an important gift to the Sawyer Business School. Tell us about its significance.
SM: When you get to a certain point in your career, you stop and think about giving back. And I thought that the biggest impact I could have was helping a Suffolk student, someone who maybe looked like that little girl from Billerica who had a dream of being a successful accountant.
I really want to help those students who are smart and intelligent and driven and, financially, come from a situation where it’s not as easy. The scholarships maybe mean they don’t have to work two jobs, they only have to work one. Or it gives them a little extra time to study or do an activity. That would feel like a worthwhile contribution that I can leave for the next generation of Suffolk students.
Q: How else will your gift have an impact?
SM: Accounting departments are always the backbone of a company, but the accounting profession has changed dramatically in my lifetime and especially over the last ten years. I know that [Accounting Department Chair] Tracey Riley understands that Suffolk has to keep accounting students aware of how the profession works, and I want to help her do that.
Q: What are three things you love about your job?
SM: Number one: People. I love having a team and being part of a team. Even when it's a bad day they're just great people to be around.
Number two: The strategy of it all. I really enjoy the figuring out or trying to plan for what's going to happen. The people on my team sometimes will say I’m very frustrating to work for because I have a thousand ideas. And I’m verbal, so I like to talk about it with them. They're, like, ‘Can we just do the day job, Stacy?’
Number three: In my heart of hearts I’m an accountant: I really like a good accounting problem. Nothing makes me happier than solving it.