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The End of an Era

George A. Gillespie, B. Tech., FCPA, FCA

Life at McColl Turner is about to change significantly – not only for our partner George Gillespie, but the whole firm as well. George is retiring this year following a successful career which has spanned five decades. The firm takes pride in George’s many accomplishments, including a recent significant recognition. To quote from the Chartered Professional Accountants of Ontario announcement:

On September 22, 2016, CPA Ontario elected 59 CPAs from Ontario who have brought distinction to the profession through their significant achievements in their careers and outstanding contributions to their communities. These members were recognized on November 17, 2016 with the highest honour the profession can bestow.

George received this deserving honour at a special ceremony in Toronto which was attended by many of the partners.

As George retires from the Firm, we asked him to provide us with some of his thoughts and recollections of his time with McColl Turner.

As I have said to many people, if you count my paper route, I have only had three jobs in my life. My first working day at the firm was May 7, 1973. My father was a friend of Jim Turner’s and when I returned from Ryerson Polytechnical Institute in Toronto at Christmastime, I asked my father if he would help me find a summer job at an accounting office. He agreed and brought me, not to his accountant, but to his friend Mr. Turner. I asked why and he said, “I think Jim will be a better fit for you”. Whatever that meant could not have been more accurate! More than 43 years later and it still is a good fit for me! It’s been a great ride!

After I graduated from Ryerson, I began full time employment in the spring of 1977. I was engaged at the time to Ann and so it was important for me to settle down and get on with a solid profession that we could count on. Being in a hurry to get on with life, I signed up to go to the ICAO’s School of Accountancy in the spring of 1978, and after passing this prep course I went on to write the final CA exams in September 1978. I learned that I had passed on the first Friday in December of that year and the partying began (and some say, and I would agree with them, that it never stops!).

After passing, I progressed to Senior Accountant and on March 1, 1981, I became an Associate. This was a step before partnership and I became self-employed at that date. I was also invited to attend part of the semi-monthly partnership meetings and it was about then that I was moved to a private office. Following this, I was invited to join the Partnership on March 1, 1983.

Over my next 30 years as a Chartered Accountant and a partner in a small business, we acquired many new clients and retained a vast majority. I performed audits, review engagements, compilations and prepared personal tax returns, estate tax returns and completed a lot of special work that was requested of me.

I specialized, as much as is practical in a firm of our size, in audits of educational institutions. Our firm was made up of a number of partners and professional staff such that many came from outside our firm and usually from outside of Peterborough. This provided the necessary mix of new people to our world. It was also the basis for many efficiencies in how we approached our work.
Challenging times included losing partners before they reached normal retirement age and the resulting transition in our firm that was not planned. Also, it was difficult separating the Lindsay, Fenelon Falls and Bobcaygeon practices in 2001 and selling them and the real estate to the partners who operated those offices.

The most rewarding thing though, was to see the new faces coming along every year, joining our firm after they graduated from university, and watching them grow and develop into the professionals that they are today. There are many people I could name here whom I have watched graduate from the firm and who are now successful business/professional people in and around Peterborough and even further afield. I couldn’t have asked for a more rewarding career in this respect.

The firm has provided me with many volunteer opportunities. My volunteer career was born in 1978 when I mentored students at Adam Scott with The Business Game which was sponsored by The Institute of Chartered Accountants of Ontario. Following this, I was appointed to the Board of the Peterborough Information Centre and Volunteer Bureau (which has since morphed into the CCRC or the Community Counselling and Resource Centre). After a six year term, I was invited to join the Peterborough Business Development Centre, which is now known as Community Futures Peterborough. I remained on this Board for over 25 years and concluded with being Board Chair from 2004 to 2012. Throughout these years I also volunteered with the sporting activities of my kids.

In the midst of my volunteer activities in the community, I also was asked to become a member of the ICAO’s Practice Inspection Committee. I was proud to assist this Program which ensures all CAs are operating on a level playing field and properly providing services to the public.

In 2014, I joined the Board of Governors of Fleming College and I am currently a Vice-Chair of this Board. In 2016, I was honoured to be elected a Fellow of the Chartered Professional Accountants of Ontario and I take pride in this investiture. I could not have done this without the support of the past and present partners of McColl Turner.

I am also proud of the family that Ann and I have: Laura, Jamie, Brent and Scott. And now we have six grandchildren!

While I contemplate retirement and what I will do with the rest of my life, I think of 2017 and how quickly it has come. I realize that McColl Turner will carry on without me – for the better I am sure – and the cycle of life will continue. As I said, it has been a great ride and has left me with many, many memories and cherished thoughts that include a warm feeling that I have had success here. I will always be a McColl Turner partner (albeit retired) and I will always have a special place in my heart for McColl Turner.

Thank you George for sharing these memories with us. You have regaled us many times with interesting and humorous stories – you will be missed. George will continue with the firm until June of this year, keeping busy with his transition and ensuring that his clients are reassigned to a new partner with whom they feel comfortable. We are sure that George’s clients join the Firm in extending their thanks to George for his many years of service and together we wish he and Ann a fulfilling retirement.