His personal philosophy, he said, is to always strive to achieve his best because, if one aims for mediocrity, they will achieve just that.
On Friday, the 22-year-old Rome native turned his tassel, earning a remarkable achievement when he graduated from Shorter University with both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in accounting.
The summa cum laude graduate earned both diplomas within his four years at Shorter, a university he said was the only school on his mind when applying for colleges. His decision for pursuing accounting was an easy one to make, he said.
“Ever since I was young, I’ve always been really good at math,” he said. “It’s always clicked. It made sense, and then as I got older, I thought, ‘What am I going to do with my life?’ Well, there’s always a business, there’s always money changing hands, so why not go with that? I’m good at it.”
He also said his godmother, Colleen Ingram-Ellison, is a CPA, which also inspired him to go into the field.
“There’s always money in the world, and there’s always a need for someone to manage that money,” he said. “It’s job security, which is one of the reasons.”
Ackley said he began his collegiate efforts with the goal to earn his bachelor’s degree, but when the master’s program merged into the curriculum, he jumped at the opportunity to earn both degrees.
“I started out with a CPA (Certified Public Accountant) track, which requires 150 hours to be able to sit through the exam,” he explained. “They started offering a master’s program in accountancy roughly halfway through my college career. And instead of accounting electives, they’re letting us take the master’s classes online. Since last summer, I have taken all the master’s courses while I was taking the undergrad.”
But it wasn’t easy, he said. Ackley was overexerting himself in regard to his studies and his job at Brugg Wire Rope LLC in Rome, which manufactures elevator cables.
“I hardly ever slept, and I hardly even had a social life on top of that,” he said. “I started out as a customer sales representative (at Brugg) last year, and I believe it was four months ago I was actually promoted to the materials buyer of the company.”
Ackley not only has a knack for immersing himself in the business world but also for succeeding in it.
He was a member of a team at Shorter that won first place in a business simulation game for strategic management, he said, and his group of three other students competed within the Shorter system and also worldwide.
In his business class, there were four teams comprised of four people that competed, but ultimately they were paired against everyone in the world.
Ackley said there were nearly 3,000 teams that competed from 300 universities, and his team tied for first place along with 44 other teams in the world.
His team started managing a national company for digital cameras, he said.
“We ran every aspect of the business, from management to marketing to sales and pricing,” he said.
When he set down his pencil after the last exam of his college career, Ackley said an overwhelming feeling of relief washed over him.
“I was at the edge of the tunnel, and it was just a matter of stepping through. It’s just a relief to focus on the larger issues such as my job, social life … eat, sleep, any of the above,” he joked. “It is surreal.”
Ackley said that what helped him charge through any hardships he experienced during college was keeping a firm, stubborn eye on his goal. “It’s stressful, but it’s really ultimately for the goal. Statistics say people, once they finish school, they won’t go back. If you stay out too long, you typically won’t go back. Not to mention, if you stay out it’s a lot harder, if you have a family, working a full-time job, it’s harder to go back and get your degree. I aimed for something and wasn’t giving up. I was headstrong the entire way regardless of what sacrifices needed to be made.”
He said the familial atmosphere of Shorter University enhanced his four years studying there.
“The professors were like family and friends,” he said, adding that his mentor Robert Darville, dean of Shorter’s business school, had a profound impact on him.
“He’s consistently challenging as well as bringing in real life examples from the real world,” he said. “I can’t tell you how many times this man has taken 50 minutes to talk about life.”
He said Darville helped teach him to look up from the textbooks, take a step back and apply the knowledge to real-world scenarios. He also helped him tackle ethical issues that arise in the business world.
“(Darville) said ‘You’re going to come out of here feeling burnt out, but once you get out there, you’ll see that a lot of it makes sense,’” he said.
Now that his college career is behind him, Ackley said he is going to focus on his job at Brugg for the time being. But in the future, he aspires to become an accounting professor.
“I feel like I could help people in the future, and be able to shape tomorrow as well as today,” he said. “The worst feeling in the world, at least for me, is not being able to understand something. To be able to help somebody see something maybe in a different light or to help them understand something they didn’t know, that’s something big that changes someone’s life completely.”