Financial Career Started With a Ride on a Hog Truck – The Wall Street Journal

As a World War II veteran,

Henry B. Tippie

qualified for GI Bill benefits that paid for his accounting studies at the University of Iowa. Getting a job was a bigger challenge.

Applying to accounting firms by mail didn’t work. So Mr. Tippie accepted a free overnight ride on a truck carrying hogs to Chicago, stayed in a fleabag hotel, and went door to door.

That didn’t work either.

He finally found low-paying work at an accounting firm in Des Moines, where he scrimped by renting a room at a YMCA for $1 a day.

In 1953, Mr. Tippie got a better job, in Rehoboth Beach, Del., as an accountant for two ambitious Georgia-born brothers, Wayne and

John Rollins,

who owned radio stations and car dealerships.

Their financial records were a mess. After cleaning up the books and finding a badly needed $20,000 in a bank account the brothers had overlooked, Mr. Tippie became their gruff but deeply trusted adviser and eventually chief financial officer. He nixed the brothers’ wilder ideas and was deeply involved in their move into vehicle leasing.

In 1964, Mr. Tippie helped the Rollins brothers negotiate and structure a $62 million acquisition of the Orkin pest-control business, now part of

Rollins Inc.

, whose other brands include Critter Control. The Orkin purchase was an early leveraged buyout, dependent on borrowings secured by the acquired company’s future earnings. Mr. Tippie was a director of Rollins for 56 years.

He also ran his own broadcasting and building-materials businesses in Texas, where he bought land to create a 35,000-acre ranch, pieced together through 150 transactions. He made large donations to educational institutions, including the University of Iowa, whose business college is named after him.

Mr. Tippie died Feb. 20 at his home in Austin, Texas. He was 95 and had cancer.

Henry Bokholt Tippie was born Jan. 5, 1927, and grew up on a farm near Belle Plaine, Iowa, where his family ran a dairy business. “You can’t beat our milk but you can whip our cream,” proclaimed a local newspaper ad for Tippie’s Dairy.

“We worked all the time,” Mr. Tippie told a biographer. “We had to milk those cows out there seven days a week, twice a day.” An authorized biography, “An Iowa Farm Boy on Detour” by

Margaret O. Kirk,

tells his story.

He attended a one-room rural school and by age 11 was earning his own money by growing peas, beets and other vegetables. He later worked on threshing crews and trapped gophers. In notebooks, he recorded his income and spending, to the penny.

For high school, he went to the small town of Belle Plaine. As a farm kid, he felt like a social outcast. That gave him something to prove.

In 1944, he enlisted in the Army Air Forces and was shipped to Guam, where he was assigned to administrative duties.

“The service was my ticket to a different future,” he said, “and it became my ticket off the farm.” He enrolled at the University of Iowa in 1947 and graduated two years later by attending summer school and doing without a social life.

By 1951, he was working at an accounting firm in Omaha, Neb., and studying the financial pages of the Omaha World-Herald. Soon he began investing in stock, starting with

General Motors


U.S. Steel,

under a buy-and-hold strategy.

He was engaged to be married. The wedding invitations had been sent. Then came a telegram from his fiancée: She had changed her mind. Humiliated, Mr. Tippie sought a fresh start by advertising his services in the Journal of Accountancy.

Wayne Rollins

spotted Mr. Tippie’s “situations wanted” ad. The Rollins brothers wanted a self-starter and were impressed that Mr. Tippie didn’t ask them how to find his way to Rehoboth Beach for his job interview. He arrived on a Greyhound bus in January 1953 and soon was at work untangling the brothers’ finances. His duties expanded to organizing acquisitions, running the vehicle-leasing business and preparing companies for stock-exchange listings.

One day in 1955, he ordered a late lunch at a restaurant in Rehoboth. His waitress was

Patricia Sue Bush,

who was on a break from accounting studies at Allegheny College in Meadville, Pa. Mr. Tippie barked his order; she found him rude.

The next time she waited on him, he was friendlier. He gave her his business card. He left a silver dollar as a tip. They married in June 1956.

She survives him, along with three children, nine grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.

He received a Horatio Alger Award in 1996. His many gifts to the University of Iowa started with $5 for a scholarship fund in 1953 and included a 1999 commitment to donate more than $30 million.

Mr. Tippie was once asked which he enjoyed more, making money or giving it away. “I enjoy both equally,” he said.

Write to James R. Hagerty at

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