​Remembering One of the Unsung Heroes of Our Profession

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​​There are times when I look back at the history of our organization and I'm awestruck. Today is one of those days. I reflect with gratitude on the individuals who were instrumental in The IIA's evolution, and I believe all of us are humbled by the everlasting impact they've made on the internal audit profession and The IIA. One person, in particular, headed the pack.

Last Wednesday, John Harmon, executive vice president of The IIA (equivalent to the current title of CEO) from 1972 until 1978, passed away at the age of 89. John was one of the most formidable and influential figures in IIA history. Although he flew under the radar compared to some other historical IIA figures, his vision and fortitude led The IIA to achievements that have become the cornerstone for much of what we represent as an organization today. 

The IIA reached numerous milestones during John's six-year tenure as chief executive, including:John Harmon

  • Relocating from New York to Florida.
  • Purchasing the land IIA headquarters resides on today.
  • Launching the Certified Internal Auditor designation.
  • Approval of the International Standards for the Professional Practice of Internal Auditing.​
  • Formation of the Research Foundation.
  • Holding the first Leadership Conference for chapter leaders.

When you think about it, The IIA experienced some of its most significant growth during this short period of time when compared with our entire 72-year history; and this was under a leader who was not from the profession. He was an association executive. The IIA's founding father, Victor Brink, described him as a man who "has the capacity to think imaginatively about potential opportunities and to contribute ideas which can be tested and shaped by associates, officers, and others for maximum Institute welfare."​

Despite the fact that I would have only been in high school when he assumed the helm of The IIA, I found his advice over the past three years to be very sage. He will be missed not only by his family, but all who knew him.

When interviewed by IIA Today in 2011, John continued to share his passion for The IIA and the profession. He said, "[Internal auditing] is making progress, but I believe it is still a sleeping giant with much more potential. More people should be in internal auditing, and they need The IIA." And with his usual wit, he commented from a personal perspective: "My son Eric is an internal auditor and a member of The IIA. He's also a CIA. Good thing we started that!"

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