Elizabeth H. Depew of Valparaiso came to her accounting career via a bit of serendipity. She enrolled in Purdue University North Central at age 15, while attending Wheeler High School where she played varsity sports and worked part-time.
“When I was in high school, my friend and I wanted to take a class together, and we chose an accounting class,” Depew recalls. “My friend dropped out of the class and I fell in love with it.” After graduating with an honors diploma from high school, she continued her college education at PNC. When she completed her accounting degree in 2003, Depew became a temporary accounting clerk at her alma mater.
“I looked at the job and said ‘I can do that’,” she says. Eventually, she became a regular full-time employee and handled the accounts for student activities and athletic fees, and audited travel expenses.
In 2008, she was named director of purchasing and oversaw the processing of purchases for the switchboard and food services. Since May of this year, Depew has added to her duties as director of auxiliary services and resource planning at PNC. “I still hold all of those duties I had (as director of purchasing) and I have new ones,” she says.
In her latest position, Depew oversees purchasing, telecommunications, food services, print/mail services and space management as well as the university budget planning. She has served on the university’s 2008-2014 Strategic Plan steering committee and is a member of the PNC Accreditation Self-Study team. Depew also serves on the Purdue Procurement Council to review policy for system-wide savings through procurement.
“Her efforts recently reduced the cost of education for students through a textbook rental program,” says D. Carol Kurmis, PNC-Porter County enrollment manager, in her nomination of Depew for 20 Under 40. During her tenure with PNC, Depew has also completed her MBA degree there. Her work leads to a minimum of 10 hour work days, but, Depew says, she wouldn’t change anything.
ELIZABETH H. DEPEW
Director of Auxiliary Services and Resource Planning
Purdue University North Central
1401 S U.S. 421, Westville
“I thought I’d be a CPA, although I’ve always liked governmental accounting,” she says. “They’re very different.” As Depew explains, the concept behind for-profit accounting, as that done by a CPA, is to make money. “In governmental accounting, you start with a certain amount and have to live within it,” she says.
Kurmis says Depew’s natural leadership and interest in Northwest Indiana are immediately recognizable. “As a leader and contributor to her profession and community, Elizabeth is a graduate of the Leadership Northwest Indiana Class 24. Her interest in the future of Northwest Indiana and her local neighborhood is demonstrated by her membership in the Quality of Life Council, both locally and regionally, and as the Cotters Mill Condominium Association Board of Directors.”
Because she worked full-time while in college, Depew says she appreciated the instructors who made her education possible by teaching night classes. Kurmis says “as a way to demonstrate her appreciation, Elizabeth teaches Financial Accounting I and II and Managerial Accounting courses at PNC in the evenings so that other students can have the opportunities to earn a degree as she did.” Depew lives by a personal motto: “Anything is possible and life’s challenges are opportunities to become a better person.” It’s a life lesson she learned from her parents, who are her role models.
“My parents said that anything I wanted to do, I could do. They have strong work ethics and always require accountability,” says Depew, who is the youngest of five children.
Depew says her parents also taught her to give back to the community. Sometimes, she says, that effort means doing something you don’t especially like to do. “I hate to run, but I was talked into doing a run for Inheritance of Hope, which provides retreats for families where the parents are sick—like Make a Wish, but for parents,” she says. “It gives kids time with their parents.”
Other favorite community activities involve children, she says, and include the Salvation Army Angel Trees, the Boys & Girls Clubs and the Girls Just Want to Be Girls program that’s part of the Women’s Association at PNC.
Some of Depew’s activities stem from personal or family challenges. For example, she hosted a cancer benefit with silent auction for her 27-year old cousin who has a brain tumor. “You don’t have to like the reason they’re going through this, but you can do something positive,” Depew says.
To relax, Depew spends time with her husband, Adam, and her 11-year old step-daughter. She says playing tennis and practicing a specific kind of martial art, called Brazilian Jujitsu, keep her focused.
“My husband teaches Brazilian Jujitsu and runs charities in town,” Depew says. “He’s very special.”