Day in a Life of Numbers

May 14th, 2013 | Post a comment

Jim Rittenhouse

Jim Rittenhouse ’84

The figuring begins in the sheepfold, where Jim Rittenhouse ’84 feeds his flock of Hampshire sheep each morning. There are 48 of them at the moment, including the lambs that began arriving in February; by early March, 17 of his 22 ewes, or 77 percent of them, had lambed – a proportion directly in line with his flock management goals. Ideally, these lambs will gain one pound of weight for every pound of feed they eat. Each ewe gets 1.5 pounds of feed per day. When lambing season gives way to shearing season sometime in April, he’ll hope to have realized an overall birthrate of 1.8 lambs per ewe, the optimal figure for the Hampshire breed.

At the gym there are more numbers to contend with. Rittenhouse spends 30 minutes on the treadmill with the incline set to 3, during which he hopes to cover 3 miles while burning through 600 calories.

Rittenhouse drives a hybrid Camry to Detweiler Hershey & Associates, P.C., an accounting firm in Souderton, Pennsylvania, where he’s worked since 1984 and been a partner since 1994. If he gets 37 mpg on the commute, he’ll feel good about it. He unlocks the door, hits the lights, checks his email to see what sorts of accounting emergencies have flared up overnight, and gets on with the day-to-day work of accounting, which “is about as dry as the Oakwood 3rd dormitory floor after a water battle.”

During lamb season, he spends his lunch break back on the farm to check up on the animals. The Rittenhouses have been on this farm in Montgomery County since 1852; Jim represents the seventh Rittenhouse generation working the place; his parents remain active there and help tend the sheep.

Lamb season coincides with tax season, a 115-day physical and emotional marathon. Crossroads’ visit to the Rittenhouse farm came on day 50, approaching the halfway mark (technically, about 43.5 percent of the way through). Under normal circumstances, keeping track of the days allows him to gauge progress on the tax returns due by April 15. Under current circumstances, with IRS approval of various tax forms delayed by last year’s fiscal cliff situation, there are some considerable uncertainties at work that complicate trying to figure out how things stand with regard to approaching deadlines.

Lamb and tax seasons are preceded by basketball season, which Rittenhouse spends as coach for the middle school girls’ team at Pennview Christian School. The numbers implicated here “can be less confusing than those required by the Securities Exchange Commission” but are still important. He runs the 2-3 zone defense, and wants his girls to shoot at least 50 percent from the free-throw line, and emphasizes the old-school fundamentals that were a big deal during his ’81-’84 career with the EMU Royals. He specialized in aggressive defense, and during his senior year, according to the record books, averaged 5.3 points and 4.6 rebounds per game while making 52 percent of his free-throws.

The Rittenhouse family has a streak going at EMU: Jim and Kendra Good ’85 Rittenhouse, plus their sons Steven ’11, Joel ’12 and Justin ’12 (all born within 15 months of one another, making for some interesting parental math). Emily is in the ninth grade and intends to make it a perfect 6-for-6 at EMU.

Numbers, numbers everywhere – the easy, black-and-white part of accounting. The people are the real challenge, and here, figures go out the window. Money can do strange things to us. Arguments crop up. Old resentments come roaring back when families sit down to divvy up their inheritances. Sometimes the very richest find themselves in intractable conflicts over trifling things, camels stuck at the eye of the needle.

Rittenhouse finds himself playing the role of the mediator sometimes, helping clients explore the feelings that have led to conflicts, helping them figure out what they want, and why. The psychology minor he earned at EMU has been every bit as valuable as the accounting degree, and even better was the way his mind widened and opened at EMU. — Andrew Jenner ’04

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