Dr. Darrell Walden

Accounting department chair: "It's no longer about counting beans"

November 23, 2009

Give Darrell Walden a balance sheet and he can tell you a story.

Walden found an innovative way to link the history and records of the Freedmen's Bureau and Freedman's Bank to African-American genealogical research, a product of which is the highly acclaimed presentation "Whispers from the Dust: The Freedmen Records and African American Family History."

The Freedmen’s Bureau and Freedman's Bank, created by Congress one month before President Lincoln's assassination, provided the first opportunity for freed slaves to record themselves as citizens. The records, covering over 1,100 linear feet, had been in the National Archives for more than 140 years when Walden co-founded the Virginia Freedmen Project in 2005. The project's mission is to encourage and strengthen families, particularly those within the African-American community, to discover their genealogy and family history.

The Virginia Freedmen Project was the catalyst to digitize and index the Bureau records through Family Search and the National Archives. The Virginia Bureau records, the first of 12 southern states, were completed in June 2008 with over 192,000 images indexed.

Walden’s work carries on a distinguished accounting tradition. His father owned several businesses, his uncle was one of the first African-American certified public accountants in Ohio, and his mother was the chief accountant at Virginia Union University. His first accounting professor was the first woman African-American CPA in Virginia.

Walden earned his Ph.D. in business with honors from Virginia Commonwealth University, where he majored in accounting and minored in finance and information systems. Only 24 doctoral degrees were awarded to African-Americans that year, out of a total of 1206 doctoral degrees.

Walden worked for two Fortune 500 companies and was in private practice before making the transition to higher education. Prior to his tenure at the Robins School, he taught at three other universities including VCU and the prestigious Marriott School of Management at Brigham Young University-Provo UT. He was recently named chair of the accounting department, where he currently teaches cost and managerial accounting.

In the balance sheet of life, Walden will tell you that a degree in accounting is definitely an asset. In 2008, the Big Four accounting firms were listed among the top five best places to launch a career. "The need to count up losses makes accounting a recession-proof career," says Walden. "The numbers don't lie."

"The logic required in accounting makes a student a better business person,” says Walden. “Accounting is required coursework for all business students, and those who fear it the most often discover they fare better than they thought.”

 "Accounting is the language of business," says Walden. "The accounting major allows the student to understand all aspects of business and the consequences of business decisions, and as such, become better accountants, managers, and entrepreneurs.”

Lest you think a career in accounting is as interesting as a hill of beans, think twice. “It is a very versatile major,” he added, noting that accounting majors often study abroad. “It's no longer about counting beans.”