Brenden Tolar-Payne

Graduate Spotlight: Brenden Tolar-Payne ’20, Master of Accounting ’21

“After attending the same school for kindergarten through 12th grade, I wanted to experience something different,” said Brenden Tolar-Payne, MActg ’21.

The Denver, Colorado, native was using the Common App, which allows prospective students to submit an application to multiple colleges at once, when the University of Oregon came up.

“My parents said, ‘You could be a Duck!’ I said, ‘I don’t know what that means!’” he explained.

During his time at the University of Oregon, Tolar-Payne said he had so many options he needed to narrow his focus and ultimately pursued an accounting major and a minor in theatre arts. He was also able to do an intensive language program in Japan for a summer and take part in the Business Honors Program.

It was spring term of his sophomore year, when he was pursuing both biology and accounting, that Tolar-Payne took Accounting 211 with senior instructor of accounting Michael Tomcal.

“Something about his way of teaching clicked with me,” he said. “I appreciated the experiences he had tied to accounting. That class is what drove me to want to be an accountant. That same term, I applied to the b-school as an accounting major.”

His time with Beta Alpha Psi and its Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program not only helped him in his coursework, it confirmed his interest in being a tax professional.

“I enjoy accounting a lot. I love the thought of accounting as being more of a puzzle: you’re solving for something. My brain works well in that situation,” he said. “My theatre studies allowed me to keep creativity around while plugging numbers. I think I’ve become a well-rounded individual.”

Tolar-Payne graduated summa cum laude in accounting, minoring in theatre arts, for his undergraduate degree, and he immediately applied and was accepted into the Master of Accounting program.

He earned the Joseph L. Anstett Memorial Master of Accounting Scholarship, and his fellow students voted him the 2021 Outstanding MAcc Student.

Tolar-Payne said instructors and the students in his cohort pivoted remarkably well to distance learning.

“A year ago when this all started, instructors and students were basically told ‘you have a couple weeks to take everything you’ve done in the past and put it online,’” he recalled. “The tenacity it took to get that done has blown me away.”

“I have never felt that my academics have been hindered by going online,” he added. “My teachers have been able to adapt their lectures and adapt the course material in a way that is still conducive to learning. As a tutor for Accounting 213, I’ve been using some of the new methods I observed in my lectures as well.”

Tolar-Payne said it’s a testament to the Lundquist College that after a short adjustment period, he really didn’t think much about how his graduate studies were taking place online instead of in a classroom.

These days, as he considers commencement, Tolar-Payne knows exactly what being a Duck means: Pride.

“Looking back five years later, it’s really incredible to think of the impact the name ‘the Ducks’ has on everyone,” he said. “A college. A research institution. Athletics as well. Everyone seems to know what a Duck is. It’s a professional standard. I’m honored to be a part of that.”

Tolar-Payne starts at big four firm PricewaterhouseCoopers back in Denver as a public company services tax associate in October.

—AnneMarie Knepper-Sjoblom ’05, Lundquist College Communications