Change was in the air in 1967 when Norma Lauder, ’71 BUS, set foot on campus, light years from her Illinois hometown of Cantrall, population then (and now) under 150. The baby boom was steamrolling through American colleges, and the antiwar and women’s movements were taking hold.
Today, Lauder is chair of the University of Illinois Alumni Association Board of Directors, 2023-25, after decades of volunteer service to units throughout the University, including the Dean’s Business Council and the Board of Advisors for the Illinois Master of Science in Taxation program, both at the Gies College of Business.
Other Illini connections: husband David, ’71 LAS, whom she met early sophomore year and married the fall after they both graduated; daughter Katie, ’19 ACES; and late sister Mary Beth Thompson, ’66 BUS.
A first-generation accounting major, Lauder was, throughout most of her long career, the rare female in the business classroom and the executive suite. She made partner at Arthur Andersen & Co., was named vice president, (worldwide) taxes, at Beatrice Co., and served as senior vice president, director of taxes, Bank One.
While she believes merit drives success, Lauder lived through the early (and ongoing) transition of smart, strong women into professional fields such as accounting, which were sometimes unwelcoming or unappealing to females. The 1971 U of I commencement ceremony program shows 11 women, including Lauder, in an accounting cohort of 133. That’s 8 percent. (The Class of ’22, by contrast, had 174 men and 152 women accounting majors, the latter comprising nearly 47 percent of the graduating cohort.
A two-week semester break internship at Arthur Andersen & Co., a prestigious Chicago accounting firm that routinely recruited U of I business students, launched her into a long career that included appearances before Congress, deep involvement in professional organizations and complicated international business transactions.
“The U of I just gave me confidence that I wouldn’t have had otherwise,” Lauder says. “Not that I thought I could do everything. But I knew I had a wonderful degree. I knew I was recruited by a great firm. So it gave me the opportunity to succeed. ”
When Lauder made partner at Andersen in 1982, “I was the first woman partner in the Chicago office in the tax department,” she recalls. It was the biggest tax department in the international firm, and she calls that promotion “my proudest achievement.” She was one of eight women partners made worldwide that year, which doubled the number of Andersen’s women partners.
Along the way, Lauder also earned a master’s degree in taxation from DePaul University’s Driehaus College of Business and spent 29 years on the board of the Chicago-based Women’s Business Development Center. Post-retirement, Lauder agreed to be the full-time director of the University’s Master of Science in Taxation program at the Illini Center in Chicago. “It was the perfect transition into retirement,” she says. Not really: she stayed a decade.
Now she is fully focused on leading the UIAA Board as the Alumni Association moves beyond the lingering effects of the COVID-19 shutdown and the painful loss of late President Jennifer Dillavou, ’82 ED, whom Lauder recalls as “a force of nature…who left a wonderful legacy.”
Lauder expects the Board’s ongoing search for a successor will bring a new president to the UIAA this fall. She says the Board is also working to “build on and enhance the Alumni Association’s outreach programs—both in person and online—to connect and engage every alum regardless of demographic.
“And through this connection provide them with opportunities to engage with other alums and access information about all the wonderful things happening at the University,” concludes the new UIAA board chair. “In other words, to instill pride because we have so much to be proud of.”—Lex Tate
The Lauder File
Favorite campus place
The Quad, “hard to beat”
Ken Perry, PHD ’53 BUS, “a dynamo and CPA cheerleader”
Favorite Campustown place
Murphy’s Pub, “Friday night, brats and beer”
Favorite Illini sports
“With my husband, Dave, huge basketball and football fans; thrilled with two great coaches”
Activity at Illinois
Star Course, the student-run concert and production organization
Allen Hall, Illini Tower, Stoughton Manor, “still there!”