College of Business > News & Events > Remembering Sandra Shelton (1954-2021), DePaul Accountancy Professor and Role Model for PhD Candidates of Color
By Robin Florzak | Photo by Kathy Hillegonds /
October 5, 2021 /
Posted in: Faculty /
Sandra Shelton was studying for her PhD in accountancy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the early 1990s when she was given the opportunity to meet all of the other PhD in accountancy candidates of color from across the United States. There were only seven.
“I can remember each of their faces, their names, everything about them because I was just so happy to see them,” recalled Shelton, the KPMG/Neil F. Casson Endowed Professor of Accountancy at DePaul University, in a
2014 College News interview. “I didn’t even know another person of color who had finished their PhD in accounting. I had never seen one. And I was determined that once I finished the PhD program, I was going to make it easier for other people of color to get a PhD in business.”
Shelton kept that promise by becoming a founding member of the PhD Project. Over nearly three decades the nonprofit organization has inspired hundreds of students of color—including several of Shelton’s DePaul colleagues—to attain PhDs. She was a member of DePaul’s Driehaus College of Business faculty for 27 years, distinguishing herself as an award-winning teacher. Shelton died at Evanston Hospital on Oct. 4 following a stroke.
“There are only 110 Black women that have ever been awarded a Ph.D. in accounting in the U.S. Only four of those became full professors with an endowed chair," says DePaul Assistant Professor of Accountancy Stephani Mason, a PhD Project alumna. "Sandra was, without a doubt, a trailblazer. With all of her accomplishments, she was still one of the kindest people I have known. She was my colleague, but most importantly she was my friend. My existence as an accounting academic was made possible because of the sacrifices that Sandra Shelton made."
Professor of Accountancy Kelly Richmond Pope, another DePaul colleague and PhD Project alumna, praised Shelton for being a groundbreaking leader and mentor. "So many of us can credit parts, if not all, of our careers for her continued support and advocacy," she says. "Sandra lives in all of us. Her commitment to excellence and her dedication to the accounting profession were inspiring, and our community will forever be changed because of her leadership. It's such an honor to have known, loved and been mentored by such an amazing woman. May we all continue to live by the principles Sandra instilled in us all."
A native of Tennessee, Shelton grew up in a family of educators. She majored in economics at Rhodes College in Memphis and earned an MBA from Indiana University and a CPA. While working as an auditor and consultant, a friend recruited her to teach a night class at Chicago State University. The experience convinced Shelton that teaching was her calling and she decided to pursue a PhD.
“Working with minority students definitely was a factor in my decision,” she said in a 2000
Chicago Tribune interview. “At Chicago State, I was able to see how important it is to be a role model. As a teacher, I was able to invite some of my friends from corporate America into the classroom to talk about practical topics, from dressing for success to interview techniques. I found the job personally rewarding, and I found coming from the business world to the classroom provided me with some additional insight.”
Shelton was one of the first recipients of the KPMG Doctoral Scholarship and after earning her PhD she served as a member of the planning committee for The PhD Project, which the KPMG Foundation co-founded in 1994 to address the under-representation of minorities on the faculties of U.S. business schools. Since then, more than 1,500 minority business professors have earned their doctoral degrees with PhD Project support. In 2014, Shelton was named to the PhD Project Hall of Fame for inspiring students of color to earn PhDs, which, in turn, encourages students of color to study business.
At DePaul, Shelton taught auditing and corporate governance classes and published research that focused on judgment and decision-making issues with financial information. She was recognized as Educator of the Year by the Chicago Chapter of the Institute of Internal Auditors in 2008 and 2014. She chaired the Driehaus College of Business’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee, which provides recommendations for the college’s DEI efforts.
The KPMG Foundation and DePaul partnered in 2016 to name Shelton the KPMG/Neil F. Casson Professor of Accountancy, an endowed professorship funded by a gift from the estate of retired KPMG partner Neil F. Casson. Shelton was proud of the professorship “because of the motivation it provides to my students to reach higher in their profession,” she said, adding that it gave her “a greater opportunity to pay it forward to support the needs of students and my community in my efforts to make a difference.”
Shelton’s efforts have made a lasting difference, says, Thomas Donley, interim dean of the Driehaus College of Business.
“The many students, alumni and faculty members who have overcome obstacles to succeed—led by Sandra’s example—are her legacy,” he says. “Ray Whittington, director of the School of Accountancy & MIS, and I send Sandra’s family our sincere condolences and join the university community in mourning Sandra’s loss. Her warmth and caring will be much missed in our community.”
Visitation and funeral services will be held at
Serenity Funeral Home in Memphis, Tenn. on Oct. 12 and a memorial service will be held at
Second Baptist Church in Evanston, Ill. at noon on Oct. 21. Because of limited capacity due to COVID mitigation, please contact the church to inquire about attending in person prior to the service. A live video stream of the Oct. 21 service can be accessed atlive.secondbaptistevanston.org.
Condolences can be sent to:
H. C. Jett-H.C. Ford Funeral Home 203 Washington St. Collierville, TN 38017
The Sandra Shelton Memorial Scholarship Fund has been established at DePaul University. Contributions may be made at