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Alumni Spotlight

John and Lynne Gianola

John and Lynne Gianola

Alumni couple enjoys staying connected, giving back

July 28, 2013

For John and Lynne Gianola, both B&E accounting graduates (1975 and 1976, respectively), being a Mountaineer is a family affair.

Between the two, they have somewhere around 20 Mountaineer alumni in the family, and many of them continue to gather for WVU sporting events.

“It’s expected that we’ll all be in Morgantown for the weekend of a home football game,” said John, who recently retired as a managing partner at Ernst and Young after 38 years of service. “We love showing others the WVU atmosphere.”

Lynne agreed, saying their two grown children travel with them to many WVU sporting events, a tradition they all cherish.

John and Lynne’s story as a couple and as accounting professionals all began at WVU. Although both were Morgantown natives who graduated from Morgantown High School, they didn’t begin seeing each other until Lynne started at WVU.

“We started dating the first week I started WVU and got married the week after I left,” she said. “I graduated from WVU on a Sunday and we were married the next Saturday.” 

The newlywed couple moved to Cross Lanes, W.Va., where John had started at Ernst & Young’s Charleston office one year prior.

But John wasn’t the only one to find career success shortly after school. Lynne began her career at Arnett and Foster. After gaining experience there, she became the director of accounting for the Charleston Area Medical Center, a position she held until she opened her own firm in 1982. She was owner and sole proprietor for 30 years, and then began a partnership — Gianola, Harmon and Associates — in February 2013.

“It might be hard to imagine these days,” John said, “but it was very unusual back then. There were few females in accounting at that time, and it was uncommon for a woman to have her own practice.”

While Lynne pursued her entrepreneurial endeavors, John moved up the ranks through his firm, making partner in 1986 and becoming managing partner in 2001. Since his retirement, he has continued to serve as a senior advisor and consultant for the firm.

Throughout the years, despite the demands of successful careers and childrearing, the Gianolas’ involvement with WVU has remained steady. Not only do the Gianolas come back to WVU for sporting events, but they have given back to the University with their time and resources as well. John has recruited from WVU on behalf of Ernst and Young, spoken to a number of classes at B&E, currently serves on the WVU Foundation Board and the B&E Visiting Committee, and the couple has given two endowments to the College.

“If you look at the return on investment that we received on our education, it has been amazing. In order for (the ROI) to be sustainable, you have to continue to provide the resources necessary so that the accounting program can continue to have the success it’s had throughout the years,” John said.

“I’ve always felt that WVU provided a good education for me, and the professors were excellent,” Lynne added. John agreed, saying that the education at B&E has consistently produced good recruiting talent.

“One of the things that was really nice about my position at Ernst & Young was recruiting,” he said. “I saw early on that WVU really prepares its students to do the work. One of the great things about the professors we had at B&E was that they bridged the theoretical with practical application. To this day, we bring in WVU graduates and they’re outstanding because they’re well prepared, they work hard and they present a great image to our clients. They’re genuine people. They’re not out there creating some kind of façade that clients can see right through.”

The Gianolas have provided two endowments to the College of B&E. The John B. and Lynne F. Gianola Accounting Scholarship serves to recruit students of academic promise to the Master of Public Accounting program. The John and Lynne Gianola CPA Review Course funds a CPA review course to help the faculty present the necessary subjects and information covered on the CPA exam.

“The idea was to improve the rates of passing the CPA exam,” Lynne explained.

Giving back by improving the accounting program is something the Gianolas are happy to do.

“When you work in an organization like mine, you see people from all over the world and many of them are very credentialed,” John said. “There’s a certain pride that you have as a Mountaineer. It’s hard to describe. There are a lot of fantastic people who have gone through WVU and have succeeded in the world. You never want to be the person that lets WVU down.”

Both Lynne and John encourage students and recent graduates to become involved in civic and community organizations, something they have found to be important through the years.

“When you plant a stake in the community, not only can you share your talent but you also build the foundation of what your community needs,” John said.

“It’s important to stay balanced,” Lynne added. “It’s not just the scholastic, but it’s the volunteering and the civic activity, too. All of that goes together to make a complete package. Accounting isn’t just a general ledger, it’s so much more.”

The Gianolas love the spirit inherent in every West Virginia University Mountaineer.

“When you’re a Mountaineer, it doesn’t matter where you are when you see another Mountaineer fan, you are completely bonded with them immediately. It’s like one big family,” Lynne said. Each summer, the excitement for football season and trips to Morgantown mount for the couple.

“We’re just waiting for kick off,” John said. Luckily, with the kickoff between the Mountaineers and the William and Mary Tribe on August 31, they won’t have to wait too long