While the financial world has been on a roller coaster since 1980, Barb Zipperian, ’80, and Ken Zipperian, ’79, have weathered the ride with Ball State accounting degrees that helped each become an influential business leader in two states.

They’ve also balanced jobs and a relationship, which began when freshman Barb Dunn’s car broke down near campus, and he stopped to help. Married 37 years, their life includes two sons, now 26 and 29.

But first, those names. Why, yes, they have heard jokes about Barbie and Ken. “From the day we met, his fraternity brothers (Sigma Alpha Epsilon) would tease us,” she said. “Today, Ken is the only one allowed to call me Barbie.”

Barb came to campus to act and sing but decided waiting tables and taking lessons weren’t for her. She chanced upon accounting, staying because she likes making things balance.

A solid start

“The leadership skills I learned through my sorority (Alpha Omicron Pi), as well as my solid accounting degree, put me on my start to my career.”

That was as an internal bank auditor in Indy, joining Ken in the city. By the late 1990s, she and a friend were on Indianapolis Woman magazine’s cover as the city’s first two female bank execs.

The family moved to Memphis, Tennessee, where she was a Union Planters Bank executive. Then a Nashville banker she knew asked her to move there to be CFO of a new bank.

“I’m not a risk-taker. There wasn’t any guarantee that we were going to get it up and running.” Yet, she surprised herself. “I said, ‘Mmmm. ’K.’ ”

Barb nurtured Avenue Bank for more than nine years before it was sold. Now, she’s CFO and executive VP at Tennessee Bank & Trust — the second bank she helped start.

Just the right size

For Ken, Ball State was just the right size. “You could become good acquaintances with your professors.”

But his architect’s dream met reality after some classes and chats with a dorm neighbor in the program. “I decided that an accounting degree was a good background for business.”

Barb and Ken Zipperian in college

When freshman Barb’s car broke down near Ball State, Ken was walking by and stopped to help. The following fall, Barb said, “I was kind of looking for him” — and found him.

Ken first worked for a manufacturer, shifted to public accounting and then health care. Next, he became CFO of a small retail Indy chain, which let him get their young boys after school, supervise homework and start supper. “It wasn’t always easy for Barb just to drop things at 5 o’clock. … I took a step back in my work, and I don’t regret it.”

After working for a contractor, he ran his own business but missed the social aspects of a workplace. In Nashville, he landed as finance manager for a company. He’s now VP of finance at Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce.

While each has supported the other’s careers, it can be difficult for two busy executives to find time together. In 2016, they bought a lake house. “We mostly do spend every weekend together,” Ken said. “It kind of keeps things fresh.”