Alumnus named first Black man to chair the world’s largest association representing the accounting profession

Author: Steve Hockensmith
June 20, 2023
Okorie Ramsey
Photo Credit: Okorie L. Ramsey

Okorie L. Ramsey now serves as chair of both the American Institute of Certified Accountants and the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants

In its 136-year history, the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) has had 110 chairs. Until this spring, only one of them had been Black, and none had been a Black male.

Now that’s changed thanks to San Francisco State University alumnus Okorie L. Ramsey (B.S., ’92): Ramsey has been named AICPA chair as well as the chair of the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants (the Association). The organizations he now chairs represent nearly 700,000 members in 196 countries and territories.

San Francisco State Professor of Accounting Theresa Hammond, an expert on diversity in the accounting field, says Ramsey will lead AICPA and its members to greater Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) within the profession.

“Despite the fact that African Americans are 13% of the population, the percentage of CPAs who are Black stubbornly persists at less than 2%,” she said. “The AICPA did not admit its first Black member until 1942, and did not take a stand against discrimination until 1969. Okorie’s leadership in the AICPA illustrates how far the AICPA has come while also identifying the opportunity and work still needed to create a more inclusive profession.”

A native of Berkeley, California, Ramsey came to SF State to study business in 1988. He graduated in 1992 with a degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Accounting. He later returned to the University to serve as an adjunct professor for two years, teaching graduate students about leadership, ethics and management.

“My education and collegiate experience at San Francisco State was foundational and instrumental in my career,” Ramsey said. “San Francisco State provided me with a strong education and exposure to campus organizations, including the National Association of Black Accountants (NABA), Accounting Students Organization (ASO) and Beta Alpha Psi (BAP), and I served as an officer in all three organizations. At San Francisco State I learned critical skills such as business writing and speech in addition to my core accounting and business courses.”

Ramsey was named AICPA chair in May, and he continues serving as vice president of Sarbanes/Oxley (SOX) (a federal financial record-keeping law) for Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, Inc., and Hospitals (Kaiser Permanente). Ramsey has been with Kaiser Permanente in a variety of roles since 2009. He’s also served on the board of directors with several organizations, including the Board of Trustees for the California Society of Certified Public Accountants Education Foundation, NABA and the Accounting Career Awareness Program (ACAP).

“We met when I joined the ACAP board in 2007; he served as chair for six years,” Hammond said. “ACAP serves Bay Area high school students by providing exposure to opportunities in accounting and business fields. His commitment to improving the economic and professional futures of young people is evidenced by his consistent volunteering to work with and inspire high school students. He is always willing and eager to plan and host field trips to Kaiser for Oakland high school students or to visit Oakland schools.”

Ramsey says supporting the next generation and giving them new opportunities to succeed is one of his top goals for AICPA.

“I view this as an incredible opportunity to support the growth and advancement of the profession and continue to build trust by empowering our members and engaged professionals with the knowledge and opportunities to be leaders in broadening prosperity for a more inclusive, sustainable and resilient future,” he said.

Learn more about studying Accounting at SF State.