DHG Alumni: Toye Payne - A Pioneering Spirit

Who now works with 1.2 million honeybees, miniature Mediterranean donkeys and an international humanitarian aid organization? Why, that would be DHG alumna Toye Payne, who also happens to be one of the first two women to make partner with the firm. We caught up with Toye in between mission trips to Vietnam and Haiti to learn more about her interesting post-DHG life.

It sounds like you’ve been very, very busy since retiring from DHG in 2010. What have you been doing?

I’ve been very involved with Samaritan’s Purse, a Christian ministry that provides critical needs such as food, clean water, shelter, and medicine to impoverished people around the world, as well as natural disaster relief in the U.S. I typically spend about one week per month doing departmental audits at the organization’s headquarters in Boone (North Carolina). I also travel internationally to audit Samaritan's Purse's field offices, most typically where natural disasters have occurred as well as to audit the distribution of shoe boxes from Operation Christmas Child. Samaritan's Purse wants to ensure the shoe boxes are handled properly and the ministry's 12-week follow-up sessions teach the gospel and how to share their faith -- it's not just a handout. These experiences have taken me to more than 20 countries.

How did you get involved with Samaritan’s Purse?

Actually, it began while I was still at DHG. Over the years, three of the staff I worked with left the firm to join Samaritan’s Purse, so I was quite familiar with the organization. In 2011, when the late Larry Hughes retired, he also joined Samaritan’s Purse. Larry, who I consider a very special person in my life, asked if I’d consider doing some volunteer work with the ministry. At the same time, I had been praying for an opportunity where I could serve and best use my skill set in my own retirement. There’s no question he wanted me at Samaritan’s Purse. It’s been an incredible, life-changing experience making connections with people around the world who face dire needs and devastating loss.

You also are a passionate beekeeper. How did you get into the hobby?

Well, hopefully I’m helping in some small way, but I became a certified beekeeper about 10 years ago. A lot of people don’t realize it, but the worldwide bee population, including the honeybee, is in serious decline, with some species having become extinct or nearly extinct in just the past 20-30 years. It all came about when my husband, Richard was visiting his doctor. The doctor’s nurse was extolling the health virtues of natural honey while decrying the dwindling bee population. So Richard came home and immediately ordered two hives. That’s since grown to 20 hives with about 60,000 bees each. And each hive produces between 25-40 pounds of honey per year.

Have you been stung?

Oh, many times. But it’s worth it to help preserve these important members of our ecosystem. Not to mention, it’s a fascinating and very delicious hobby!

You also raise miniature Mediterranean donkeys. Why donkeys?

Well, (she laughs), miniature Mediterranean donkeys offer a great, natural deterrent against coyotes. As a breed, they are very, very protective of other livestock. In fact, when you have goats and the donkeys in the same field, you’ll see the goats line up behind the donkeys. We currently have two male and seven female donkeys, and they produce about seven baby donkeys per year.

And to top it all off, you have also become a certified Master Gardner?

It’s funny, many years ago I took a personality test that indicated my secondary career should be as a horticulturist. In the back of my mind, I’ve always wondered what that might have been like. Soon after retiring, I took horticultural classes at Sandhills Community College and became a Master Gardener – and I absolutely love it!

Let’s switch gears and talk about your career. Why accounting and why DHG?

Actually, my plan was to become a high school math teacher. I was attending Meredith College in Raleigh on the teacher track when I met my husband, Richard. We got married after my sophomore year and I transferred to High Point University at that time. During my junior year, out of the blue, Richard suggested I take an accounting class. My first reaction was ‘no, why?’ but he persuaded me to take the class on a pass/fail basis. Well, I did so well in the class that the accounting professor convinced me to switch from pass/fail to an earned grade. And that began my gradual transition to accounting. I graduated in 1975 and joined Dixon Odom the following year. I’ll never forget my job interview. It was conducted by Phil Dixon over an Egg McMuffin at a McDonalds. I’m glad to see that recruiting has changed quite a bit for the better since then (she says with a smile).

In 1985 you, along with Becky Wray, became the first two women to be named partners in the firm. What was that like?

Honestly, within the firm, I really didn’t feel any difference. It was business as usual. We were just part of the team. I joined the firm with the intent to become partner and assumed that if I put my head down and worked hard, I’d be rewarded. And I was. I do remember one time; however, when the Dixon Odom partners joined the partners of a Greenville, S.C. firm for a golf outing, and I was not allowed to eat in the golf club's grill! But that was almost 35 years ago and the changes in the accounting profession, especially for women, have just been wonderful. It’s so exciting to see what’s happening.

Do you feel like a pioneer in the profession?

Perhaps. I have a niece-in-law who is a CPA. She’s mentioned a couple of times how much she appreciates what I’ve done for women in the profession. I’d still like to see it get to 50% men/50% women at the partner level. But until then, I’m proud of my contribution and hope I’ve set a positive example.

Who are some of the DHG people that had the biggest impact on you?

I believe I am where I am today in large part thanks to Jay Motsinger and Don Carr (both retired partners). Both were outstanding teachers and mentors. Also, Eddie Sams (retired partner) and Horton Godwin (former High Point Office Managing Partner, deceased) taught me to really appreciate our firm’s values by how they lived them out every day and truly set the tone at the top. I also learned so much from Horton by observing the way he developed such honest, caring relationships.

What does it mean to be a DHG alumna?

I’m so pleased to have spent my entire career with people of such high values. I’m extremely proud to tell people where I worked. It opens doors even today and makes people feel good about you. Looking back on the other firms I interviewed with when starting my career, I’m so glad I chose DHG. This was the one for me. In fact, even after nearly 10 years, hardly a week goes by that I don’t stop by the office to drop off some eggs or honey or to just keep in touch. It’s a really special place.

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