While most teenage girls in 1988 spent their Christmas vacations strutting around their shopping malls in new pairs of Keds or dancing to George Michael’s latest hit in the privacy of their teen idol-postered rooms, Leslie Simpson, CFE, the membership director at the ACFE, celebrated her holiday by stuffing envelopes for one of the ACFE’s first mass mailings.
As the daughter of ACFE President James D. Ratley, CFE, the association has been the backdrop for much of her childhood, teenage and young adult years. In junior high, she attributed paper cuts to ACFE envelopes instead of homework, and in the summer her tan lines formed around the comfortable pair of shorts and t-shirt she wore while packing boxes in the association’s shipping department. However, these are only a couple of the many roles Simpson has played at the ACFE in the last 20 years.
MANY PATHS, ONE DESTINATION
Simpson began her post-high school career working at the ACFE in the accounting department and later in the research department. She attended a local community college in Austin in hopes of deciding on a career path that would get her out of her comfort zone at the ACFE headquarters in Austin but still be rewarding. She debated between a business or accounting degree, but she couldn’t see herself happy in a field without a creative component.
Meanwhile, she was mulling over a totally different dream that she had had since high school: to be a professional football cheerleader. Simpson acted on the sage advice of her grandmother, “If you don’t try, you will never know” and auditioned for the Houston Oilers’ cheerleaders. After she was chosen to be a cheerleader for the 1994-95 football season, Simpson took a year off from college and cheered the Houston Oilers on at every home game. She even traveled to Mexico City for the American Bowl – a game between the Oilers and their rival, the Dallas Cowboys.
“I thought at that time I wanted to do what my family had always wanted me to do,” Simpson said. “I would get my accounting degree and eventually become an FBI agent. But, I always knew that the creative aspect was missing in that career.”
Simpson enrolled at the University of North Texas in Denton in the fall of 1995. Her creative urges soon led her away from the accounting and business track and into several journalism and communication classes in which her right brain became friends with her left brain. Simpson graduated in 1998 with a degree in journalism and a minor in marketing. She then worked as a marketing copywriter and later as an account manager before returning to Austin and the ACFE to take on a role in event marketing.
“People here have nicknamed me ‘Boomerang’ because I have always left and come back, left and come back,” Simpson said. “But, I don’t regret any of the times I left. I learned a lot and was able to bring something back here. I learned so much about professional documentation, program plans and reporting. Every time I came back, I was able to use what I learned.”