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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University December 20, 2004 | Vol. 34 No. 16
Jerry Bridges, Longtime Controller, Announces His Retirement

Jerry Bridges

By Greg Rienzi
The Gazette

Jerry Bridges, the university's controller for almost 18 years, has announced his decision to retire from Johns Hopkins at the end of the academic year.

Since 1987, Bridges has successfully led the administration of financial reporting for the entire university system, an enterprise that has grown significantly during his tenure.

"Jerry has been an invaluable member of the university's leadership," said James T. McGill, senior vice president for finance and administration. "He and the dedicated staff in the many departments that report to him play critical roles in the successful administration of a university that has grown to become, in financial terms, a $2.8 billion business. On a personal level, I have very much appreciated his leadership, his counsel and his support. I will miss him."

In recent years, the Kentucky-born Bridges has played an important role in the development of HopkinsOne, the massive effort begun in January 2003 to re-engineer all the financial and administrative processes of both the university and health system. Once implemented, the integrated Web-based system will effectively tie together and streamline selected business functions, including purchasing, accounts payable, payroll, sponsored projects and human resources.

This past fall, Bridges and his staff successfully negotiated a new facilities and administrative overhead rate agreement with the federal government that could provide a nearly $1 billion reimbursement of administrative costs to the university over the next five years.

Prior to joining Johns Hopkins, Bridges worked for 25 years in the federal government, where he helped oversee several important management improvement and reorganization initiatives. He managed finances and audits for the Air Force and later the Defense Department and served as assistant inspector general for the U.S. Information Agency, an office that has since been integrated into the State Department.

A graduate of the University of Kentucky with a bachelor's degree in accounting, Bridges received his master's degree in business administration from the University of Dayton and is a licensed CPA in Maryland and Virginia.

The departments of the Controller's Office are Accounts Payable, Accounts Receivable, Financial Quality Control, Financial Systems, General Accounting, Payroll, Research Accounting, Student Loans and the Tax Office.

In 1987, the Controller's Office had a staff who shared a dozen computers and used adding machines and typewriters to perform their tasks. Today, with technological advances, many processes have been automated and paper documents eliminated.

Bridges said that simplifying the financial reporting processes at the university has been on ongoing endeavor.

"Financial accounting and reporting for an institution this size is highly complex, and this office needs to be the source that folks turn to, as all of the financial transactions of the university float through here," Bridges said. "And in a highly decentralized environment such as this, the challenge is to ensure that things are done correctly and in a timely fashion. There is not the degree of standardization here that you find in the private sector."

Since the university's budget is dominated by federal research grants, Bridges said that compliance has been a preeminent and increasingly complicated issue throughout his years at Johns Hopkins.

"Given our dependency on federal research dollars, it is absolutely necessary there be full compliance," he said. "What I have stressed all along are integrity, accuracy and completeness in all financial activities and disclosures."

McGill said that Bridges has brought special skills and expertise to bear in working with the federal agencies that sponsor and oversee Johns Hopkins research.

"Jerry has done an outstanding job in helping Johns Hopkins to deal with regulatory and compliance matters," he said.

During Bridges' tenure, the Controller's Office has trained, nurtured and developed dozens of staff who now occupy important financial and accounting positions throughout Johns Hopkins and elsewhere — several of his former staff have become controllers at other universities. In fact, a priority that Bridges gave himself when he took the controller position was to reclassify the jobs in the Controller's Office into career paths to allow for "horizontal advancement and vertical movement."

"Perhaps the most satisfaction that I have gotten out of the job is the success of the employees who have come through here," he said. "The most important thing, in my opinion, is having quality people and motivating them — putting them in positions to be successful. Given the size of the university, it is impossible for one person to be involved with everything and know everything. It's all about delegation."

Bridges said that for now his retirement plans include spending more time with his family and three grandchildren and to continue to teach accounting and finance at the college level.

Bridges' official last day at the university will be June 30, 2005.

A search for a successor as controller will begin after the first of the year, McGill said.

"Though it will be difficult to fill Jerry's shoes," he said, "we will be seeking a highly competent and experienced person to continue his work and to play a significant role in the implementation of the HopkinsOne project."


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