Nicole Frey became the chief operating officer for the ASU System Foundation, effective Oct. 3. A graduate of Arkansas State University, she returned to the Jonesboro community after working in high level auditing positions for Fortune 100 companies like EY and Walmart.
“I am very proud and feel very accomplished to be able to come back and serve my alma mater in a more expansive role,” Frey said. “Now I’m in a business role that helps to directly support the school I attended.”
The chief operating officer maintains banking relationships with all schools in the ASU System that are part of the foundation, which are A-State, ASU Beebe, ASU Mountain Home, ASU Newport and ASU Three Rivers. They also keep records of expenses and provide financial guidance.
Frey was born in Jonesboro. She attended A-State and got her bachelor’s in international business with a minor in Spanish. After obtaining her first degree, she went back and got another bachelor’s in accounting.
She started out as a financial services representative for Liberty Bank of Arkansas, then became a staff accountant for Goad & Company. She was then a staff auditor for BKD CPAs & Advisors and then served as a senior external auditor for EY. Her time at EY had her working in the Netherlands.
After her time at EY, Frey was a manager for global sourcing finance and strategy for Walmart, before moving to senior manager then a senior manager for international finance.
The eldest of two siblings, Frey is married to Cody Fry. They have an 11 month old daughter, Luna.
The chief operating officer of the ASU System Foundation is a new position brought on by the need for more day-to-day support, as well as the retirement of the current president. Frey is the first woman to serve as chief operating officer for the foundation.
“I feel like an accomplishment to be the first female in this position,” Nicole Frey said. “I’ve been the only girl on many audit teams that I worked on in my professional career. I think I’ll bring that new light to this role.”
As chief operating officer, Frey plans to modernize some of the foundation’s processes as well as looking into more shared services. She also wants to streamline day-to-day activities.
Dr. Len Frey, executive vice chancellor for finance and administration and her father, said she was not chosen because she is his daughter. He added that even though they both work in finance, they won’t have much interaction professionally.
“We’ve chosen to make Arkansas State our home and to have a child who has also chosen this same entity, it’s a good feeling,” Len Frey said.
Philip Jackson, who is still president of the ASU System Foundation, mentored Frey to prepare her for the position.
“Philip has been an excellent mentor to me since I started in early October. He is a very kind and generous person, he really supports his team and really cares about all the campuses,” Frey said. “I’m very appreciative to have that kind of mentor to come on and show me the ropes and then also provide that support and instill confidence in me.”
Jackson is retiring due to his diagnosis with Lou Gehrig’s disease, a disease of the nervous system that weakens muscles and impacts physical function.
“If there is a silver lining to this disease and knowing your retirement, it’s that it sped up the process of hiring my replacement so that I actually get to work with her,” Jackson said. “I’ve been able to explain the rationale for processes and investment strategies. More importantly, I’ve been able to explain the personal relationships within the system.”
Jackson was part of a team that interviewed four candidates for chief operating officer. The team looked for knowledge of accounting and accounting management. While he did not make the final decision, he said he looked for a candidate’s ability to form relationships with staff.
“We have five people all together that have worked together for many years. (Hiring) someone who I felt like could come in and be a part of the culture that has been developed here was critically important to me. She seemed to me to be the best fit,” Jackson said.
Jackson got his bachelor’s in accounting from A-State in 1982. He has been with the school system since 1985 when he worked with the Saudi Arabian Customs Project. He began working with the Foundation in 1994. During this time, he went back and got his master’s degree and his CPA license.
At the foundation, he started as an accountant and then became a controller before moving up to the role of president.
“I take great pride and ownership in it because it was a very underappreciated asset for the university. I’ve been fortunate enough to play a very critical role in its success,” Jackson said.
Jackson thanked his staff for their help during his time as president. He added that he and his wife are creating the Philip and Lisa Melton-Jackson Scholarship for Guitar as a tribute to his retirement and his deep love of The Beatles.
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