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Alumni Profiles

Alumna Fran Lawrence (’95, MAC ’96) Returns to NC State as University Controller

Poole College alumna Fran Lawrence

By Jess Clarke

Fran Lawrence’s new position as controller of NC State University carries huge responsibilities: overseeing fiscal accountability, accuracy and reporting for the $2 billion university operation. Cheerleading isn’t officially a job duty.

But don’t tell the NC State graduate that. Her Wolfpack enthusiasm is uncontained.

“I had a great experience at NC State and loved the professors. I love (mascots) Mr. Wuf and Ms. Wuf,” Lawrence says. “I always wanted to give back.”

Being a diehard Wolfpack fan comes naturally to Lawrence, who earned a bachelor’s in accounting in 1995 and a Jenkins MAC degree in 1996.

collage of photos and graduation program from NC State's Poole College of Management
A self-described diehard Wolfpack fan, Lawrence says, “I had a great experience at NC State … I always wanted to give back.”

Lawrence’s passion for the university inspires her as she addresses the challenges of the position she took in June. She’ll also draw on her experience in North Carolina state government, most recently as chief financial officer and deputy treasurer at the Department of State Treasurer.

Previously, she worked for a Fortune 500 company and two of the Big Four accounting firms.

One of Lawrence’s chief career accomplishments was as deputy treasurer. She implemented significant government accounting standards related to the state pension system that impacted the financial statements of state government entities. “That impacted the entire state and was completely new,” she says.

Lawrence wasn’t looking for something completely new when she learned of the university job opening. “I was just interested in this job because it was NC State,” she says. “I love being a public servant.”

As a public servant at NC State, Lawrence oversees a staff of about 50 people. The controller’s office administers payment of wages to over 18,000 employees, executes more than 90,000 vendor payments a year, and manages an external debt portfolio of over $500 million.

Lawrence also is responsible for the university’s cash management and banking services; accounting, financial reporting and taxation; accounts payable; and payroll and debt management.

She’s on it.

“The MAC program provides rigorous education with real-world experiences that teach students practical problem-solving skills,” says Scott Showalter, MAC program director and professor of practice in accounting. “The accounting profession requires lifelong learning to be successful, and the MAC program helps prepare students for this journey. Fran was presented with many new situations during her career, and the MAC program helped her learn how to confront those opportunities and make the most of them.”

Beyond the theories, analysis and research of accounting, Lawrence cares about people. “What I like about the controller’s office is that we work closely with many other groups on campus,” she says. “I want to create relationships to help all our campus business partners see the controller’s office as a resource for them, more than they do now.”

The relationships Lawrence created with classmates and faculty as an undergraduate and graduate student were among the highlights of her time at NC State then.

“The community was fantastic. I still have good friends I talk to who were in the programs,” she says. “As big as the university was, I never felt like a number. I always felt supported … NC State definitely wanted to see you succeed.”

She was one of about 30 students in the then-new, tight-knit MAC program, when she was known as Frannie. Frank Buckless — now Stephen P. Zelnak Jr. Dean of the college — was one of her audit professors.

Lawrence, who lives in Raleigh, never really left NC State. Her son Dominic is a university student who plans to pursue business. And her husband, Mike, is a 1993 accounting alumnus.

At NC State’s 2022 Legacy Luncheon, Lawrence and her husband, Mike, “pin” their son with a special legacy pin that denotes their NC State heritage.

The Wolfpack allegiance is obvious at Lawrence’s home. “My basement has lots of NC State things,” she notes. Ticket stubs to football games. Framed basketball and football posters from the 1990s. A T-shirt signed by Tom Gugliotta, an NC State basketball star drafted by the NBA in 1992.

Wolfpack athletics put NC State on the map for Lawrence as a high school student who grew up on a New Jersey farm. “I loved Jimmy Valvano. It was the Italian in me,” Lawrence says.

Although her family took annual trips to North Carolina’s Outer Banks, she didn’t set foot on campus at NC State until the weekend she arrived to start her first semester.

Now she can’t imagine working anywhere else.

“It’s such a great university. I want to share my expertise and contribute to its success,” Lawrence says. “I can definitely see retiring from NC State. I’d like to see this as my last workplace.”