Illinois alums Raymond and Bonnie Telling recently set up a charitable remainder unitrust to fund acquisitions of accounting resources.
Was he scooping vanilla ice cream when the revelation came? Or maybe making a chocolate sundae? Ray Telling doesn't recall the exact details. What he does remember, with utmost vividness, is the importance of that one day when he was a teenager, asking that one question, at the Danville drive-in restaurant where he worked. "My boss was talking about his CPA firm. I wanted to know `What's a CPA?' I really got interested in what a CPA firm did."
Thus did curiosity lead Raymond Telling to the Department of Accountancy at the University of Illinois, and beyond, to a distinguished accounting career culminating in the ownership of his own practice in Plattsburgh, New York. Recently, he and his wife Bonnie set up a charitable remainder unitrust, leaving their home on Lake Champlain to the U of I Foundation. Proceeds will go to establish a special fund that will, apropos of the central role that books and publishing played in Telling's career, be used to purchase materials for the Commerce library particularly resources for accounting students.
Bonnie and Raymond Telling
"The U of I has had an outstanding accounting curriculum for as long as I can remember," Telling remarked in a recent interview with InSight. "When I came to the university, I wasn't expecting that. I simply expected an accounting education. I really got a very, very good one." A Danville native, he was just sixteen when his father died. It was only through the good graces of John Speakman, state senator from Danville, that he was able to attend Illinois. Speakman, a close friend of the family, arranged for Telling to receive a scholarship. "It really was a godsend," Telling said. After starting at the university in the fall of 1940, Telling continued working at Shaw Ice Cream Company, commuting home on weekends to pull fifteen hour shifts. "I started out making minimum wage 15 cents an hour," he recalled. "Eventually the minimum wage went up to 25 cents an hour. It was the biggest percentage raise I've ever had in my life." On campus, he roomed with Leonard Sharp, who wore the Number 6 jersey on the Illinois basketball team, at that time the best in the nation. "Leonard didn't have any money either," Telling recalled. "He was in the National Guard. His unit got called up and went to the Philippines. He died on the Bataan Death March."
Telling himself was a member of ROTC. In January 1943, with hostilities escalating in World War II, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps in the midst of his junior year. He was sent to the University of Chicago as part of a unit studying meteorology. "We didn't find out until much later that they were making the atomic bomb there. We were a foil," he recalled, not without some amusement. Subsequent postings took him to Chanute Air Force Base, in Rantoul, as well as Iowa, North Carolina, Guatemala, and Panama, where he worked on a pioneering project in the use of radar to study weather. "They would let us have between seven and ten minutes every hour on the air base radar scope. The rest of the time, they needed it for aircraft surveillance."
"I came back to the university with a year and a half to go to my degree," he said. "I realized I couldn't relax. So I finished the year and a half in one year."
Having originally entered the university as a prospective member of the Class of '44, he finally graduated in '47 with a B.S. in accountancy. He remembers with special regard and respect such distinguished professors as A.C. Littleton ("great"), H.T. Scovill ("superb"), Lloyd Morey, and E.J. Filbey. "They were giants. They were also good men and good teachers. In fact, I had good teachers throughout my undergraduate career. It really helped me all around." He was also a member of the Commerce business fraternity Alpha Kappa Psi.
After graduation, Telling took a post with Price Waterhouse in Chicago, then moved to W.F. Hall Printing, remaining with that company for seven years. While at Price Waterhouse, he met his future wife, Aurora native Bonnie Buttrey. A graduate of Wellesley with a bachelor's degree in economics, she had also studied auditing and accounting at Northwestern, and had already been with the firm for two years by the time Telling arrived. Eventually the couple moved to Madison, Wisconsin, where he joined Demco Library Supplies, a nationwide company of which he became president and a shareholder. After about nine years with Demco, he bought an accounting practice, in Plattsbugh, New York, which he ran for twenty years. Thus the Tellings settled in upstate New York, where they raised a family of four children — daughters Marty Witrak, now chair of the nursing department of a college in Minnesota, and Jenny Hays, an elementary school teacher, and sons Jim and Tom (B.S. Accountancy `78), both CPAs. In 1989, Raymond Telling sold Telling & Associates, and he and Bonnie took up winter quarters in Florida, returning to enjoy the upstate New York summers.
Bonnie noted that retirement has given them even more opportunities to enjoy travel through the Alumni Association's package tours. They have been participating in these since a trip to Italy in 1969, making subsequent excursions to Greece, Yugoslavia, and, most recently, back to Italy, where they spent a week in Tuscany. Last summer the couple celebrated their fiftieth wedding anniversary in Beaver Creek, Colorado, where their son Jim is a real estate developer. The gathering included their four children, with respective spouses, and twelve grandchildren. Telling said that he and his wife decided to establish the unitrust not only because it offers significant tax and other advantages, but because "I have a very warm spot in my heart for Illinois and the College of Commerce."
"Illinois is really the best in accountancy," he concluded. "And I was very lucky to be there."