A Leg Up for Future Business Leaders: The Connie and Ken McDaniel Scholarship

When Connie and Ken McDaniel talk about giving back to Georgia State, their gratitude is for more than just their education.

Not that they don’t value their multiple Georgia State degrees — Connie a bachelor’s degree in accounting, Ken a bachelor’s and a master’s — but the school proved to be a major catalyst in their lives even after they’d graduated.

“We were both working at Ernst & Whinney, which is now EY, though we didn’t really know each other,” Connie says. “But we both participated in recruiting events at Georgia State, and we met at one of those recruiting functions. We call Georgia State our ‘love connection.’ ”

Earlier this year the McDaniels endowed a scholarship at the business school that brought them together. The Connie and Ken McDaniel Scholarship is intended for an accounting student at the J. Mack Robinson College of Business with good grades and demonstrated financial need.

Today’s Business Leaders Helping Tomorrow’s

Even before they endowed the scholarship, though, the McDaniels, both Georgia natives, were giving the Robinson College and its students a hand. Connie served a stint as chair of the advisory board for the School of Accountancy; she currently serves on the Board of Advisors for the entire business school. Ken, meanwhile, was a professor of accounting from 2003 to 2006 and served as the faculty advisor for the Beta Alpha Psi honors organization for the latter two years.

“The School of Accountancy sponsored a monthly controllers’ roundtable, and the speaker was a former colleague of ours,” Connie says. “We just happened to be talking to one of the professors, and he said, ‘Ken, you should teach at Georgia State.’ That helped reconnect us with the university, years after it’d helped us connect with each other.”

Since then, Connie has joined the Honors College Mentoring Program, which has exposed her to just how diverse the student body is — not to mention smart, creative and hard-working.

“What I’ve been impressed by is the determination and dedication to school these kids have,” Connie says. “There are a lot of things going on in the world, and a lot of temptations and distractions out there. But they’re humble, dedicated, determined, and particularly in the Honors College, they’re smart as the dickens. They’re also very poised — they can come before the board to give presentations and they conduct themselves very, very well.”

That experience, she explains, is a big part of what inspired her and her husband to endow a scholarship. “The students I’ve dealt with have all been so outstanding, but many of the students in the Robinson College need scholarship dollars to keep going. Some of their families just can’t afford it,” she says. “We set up this scholarship for someone who’s serious and motivated but who just needs a little extra help.”

Success Started Here

Connie recognizes that circumstances for many of today’s students are different from what she and her husband faced when they worked their way through school in the late 1970s and early ’80s. “I lived in Decatur and took MARTA downtown,” she remembers. “I went to school until noon, worked ‘til 5, then went home and did homework. . . . I was very fortunate that on 20 hours a week I was able to pay for a small apartment and any fees for school.”

Connie says she was also fortunate to find that first job through the business school. “I worked at a small accounting firm in Decatur, and that job was posted on the board at Georgia State,” she says. “They were looking for part-time students and I was their first hire. It worked out great.”

From there, success came quickly for Connie. She moved up from the local accounting firm to Ernst & Young and spent nine years there before making her next big jump — to The Coca-Cola Company, which would soon send her all over the world. Connie held the position of division finance manager in Bangkok, Thailand, from 1996 to ’97 and in Germany for two years after that. Meanwhile, her husband worked analyst and consulting jobs in Thailand and all over Europe.

A promotion to vice president and controller at Coca-Cola brought Connie back to the United States in 2000. Most recently she served as vice president and chief of internal audit, overseeing Coca-Cola’s auditing operations all over the world.

In May, Connie retired after nearly a quarter-century with one of Atlanta’s most famous name brands. Retirement has given Connie the opportunity to spend more time traveling and bicycling, two of her and Ken’s favorite pastimes, and spending more time with their families. And, of course, she plans to continue her relationship with the Robinson College, both as an advisory board member and as a student mentor.

“I’ve been very impressed by what the school has done and how they’re positioning themselves as a world-class urban university,” she says. “Georgia State makes a huge difference in Atlanta — it helps keep downtown alive, which is so important. For the students, it provides a world-class education, and the diversity of the student body here is such a big part of that. That’s a big part of the reason why we wanted to set up a scholarship, and we’re excited to see what these students can accomplish.”