Chris Schellman (’96, ’98)

Category: Accomplished Alumni | Awards

It was the early 2000s. The tech boom was in full swing, and Chris Schellman (’96, ’98) was making a name for himself at the Arthur Andersen accounting firm. By 2001, Schellman was considered a firm-wide expert in a specialized type of audit known as a Statement on Auditing Standards 70 audit (SAS 70), a type of audit performed by CPA firms for service organizations. Andersen was so impressed by his performance that Schellman was promoted to an executive level only three years out of graduate school. Life was good, and then the Enron scandal erupted.
When the scandal broke in late 2001, the Arthur Andersen partner responsible for the Enron audit ordered the destruction of more than a ton of audit documentation. That act ultimately led to an obstruction of justice charge against Andersen in March 2002. Schellman recalls, “At that point, it was clear that the ship was going to sink. Clients left in droves, as did employees.” Schellman was one of those who abandoned the sinking ship.

“I was only 27. I didn’t have anything to lose or a family depending on me, so I decided to start my own firm,” says Schellman, who founded SAS 70 Solutions, the world’s first CPA firm to exclusively offer SAS 70 audits as a service. “It had never been done before. Everyone thought it was a crazy idea,” he says. Fearing that they might be right, Schellman didn’t even tell his parents that he had started his own company until months later and only after it was proving to be a success.

Schellman, who was born in Memphis and attended Christian Brothers High School, decided to attend UT when U.S. News & World Report named it a “best buy” for business education during the fall of his senior year in high school.

“I didn’t know what type of business I wanted to go into,” he says. “I thought it might be international business, so I took 20 hours of Japanese.” Eventually he chose accounting as his major. He graduated early in the fall of 1996, allowing him to accept an extended internship performing financial statement audits for the Memphis office of Arthur Andersen. It was there that Schellman got his first exposure to the information security practice and found his true calling.

Schellman returned to UT in the fall of 1997 to earn his master’s degree in accounting with an emphasis in information systems. While most of his classmates were taking positions in Nashville, Charlotte, and Atlanta, Schellman decided to try something more exotic and was assigned to Arthur Andersen’s Tampa, Florida, office. Schellman was assigned to the computer risk management group and began a career in compliance and information security which would eventually allow him to start his own company.

In 2003, Schellman met Lauren Gonzmart, a fifth-generation owner of Florida’s famed Columbia restaurant. Seating over 1,700 people, it is one of the largest restaurants in the world and is considered to be one of Florida’s most recognizable landmarks. The couple were married in 2005 and now have four children, including twins Michael and Isabella and sons Maximilian and Alexander.

Schellman currently serves as president of the Catholic Foundation of the Diocese of Tampa/St. Petersburg. The foundation helps hundreds of impoverished children obtain a private school education in partnership with the State of Florida’s Step Up for Students program. The Foundation also manages over $30 million of endowments, the distributions of which support a variety of vital ministries at the local level.

Schellman has since renamed his company Schellman & Company LLC. He is proud of what his company has become—and for good reason. In March 2018, the company was ranked the 89th largest CPA firm in the United States by Accounting Today, making it the largest niche CPA firm in US history. The company is also, by far, the youngest of any Top 100 CPA firm.

In February 2018, Schellman was presented with the Accomplished Alumni Award by Development Officer Brian Hardy at a ceremony in Tampa. Schellman joins a distinguished list of outstanding alumni that includes CEOs of major corporations, Olympians, US ambassadors, astronauts, television personalities, authors, artists, and civic leaders.

“What I’m most grateful for from my UT education is my ability to collectively apply what I learned. The modern business world doesn’t care about memorization skills. It demands applied knowledge for success.” says Schellman.