August 11, 2017

Meet the 2017 CFO Contest grand prize winner

The 2017 National CFO Photo Contest has come to a close. After narrowing the field to ten finalists, Mel Sansom, CFO at Harding University, was selected as this year’s winner. Mel’s photo showcased his love of the water in Pensacola Beach and was very popular among voters.


Mel sat down with us to share more on his background, his work at the university and his life outside of the office.


Please share a bit about your professional background.

I started with Ernst and Whinney in Nashville, TN and worked in the audit department for two years. Following that experience, I moved to my hometown of Pensacola, FL and worked with my father's CPA firm for three years, before moving to Dalton, GA to be the Director of Reimbursement at Hamilton Health Care System. After six years, I was promoted to Controller and served in that role for another six years. Fifteen years ago, I moved to Searcy, AR to serve as CFO of Harding University,


Tell us about your current role at Harding University. What makes your work with the University unique?

At Harding, I have responsibility for Finance, Human Resources, Maintenance and Construction, Custodial Services, Food Services, Harding Place (our retirement community), Bookstore, Hotel, Post Office, Legal, Harding Press, Business Office and Camp Tahkodah (our summer Bible Camp for ages 8 to 18). This diversity with operational responsibilities makes my Higher Education CFO role unique as compared to other industry CFOs. In 2012, I also completed my doctorate degree in Higher Education Administration at the University of Arkansas in Little Rock to enhance my service as CFO.


Your winning photo features you barefoot skiing in the bay in Pensacola Beach. What do you love most about being in the water?

I grew up around the water and spent my summers at Pensacola Beach enjoying water skiing in the bay in the morning and in the waves of the Gulf of Mexico in the afternoon. It is a special joy to be able to enjoy the water for a week or two every summer with my parents, brother and sister again, along with our spouses and children.


Water skiing takes dedication and patience. How does this translate to your role as a CFO?

Yes, skiing takes dedication, patience and also persistence to learn and continue to improve. All of this was good training for serving as CFO, along with great coaching in other athletic interests and tremendous support and encouragement from my parents.


What else do you like to do in your free time?

My free time includes tennis on Monday nights with a group of guys for doubles and playing in USTA tournaments three times a year. My wife and I enjoy biking around Searcy and participate in the Big Dam Bridge Ride in Little Rock, AR each September. The Big Dam Bridge ride has options for 35-, 50-, 75- and 100-mile rides. We choose the 50 mile route and that is plenty for us! My wife became a yoga instructor two years ago, and I began enjoying yoga with her once a week and have benefited greatly from the increased flexibility, balance and core strength, in addition to the improved breathing and relaxation.


What excites you most about being this year's CFO Contest Grand Prize Winner?

Participating in this contest was a lot of fun. It was great to make contact with friends and family to ask them to vote. I always enjoy competition and winning always makes it better! I learned that my competitive juices were inherited not only from my father, but my mother also. She was contacting everyone she knew and about had a heart attack as the votes were climbing the last couple of days for both Robert and me, and we were neck and neck for the lead. As for the winning image, our daughter, Emily, captured the picture and my brother, Greg, was the skilled driver of the boat. My wife was tremendously supportive, as always, and accumulated 100 votes in 24 hours. Friends and family were very encouraging and helpful throughout the competition. It is an honor to be recognized in this way since I really enjoy being a 'Fun CFO."

Want to hear more from Mel? Check out his segment with the CFO Thought Leader podcast from earlier this month. 


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