On Thursday at lunch with fellow professors at Concordia (journalism and accounting), the topic turned to whether an aspiring business journalism should study journalism or business. I asked if the journalism curriculum included a study of famous or popular journalists.
The journalism prof responded, “No, we just teach students to write.”
My first thought was to wonder if that is reasonable. Shouldn’t a study of great journalists be an essential component of any aspiring journalist’s education? The benefit, I suppose, would be to provide examples of journalists for students to pattern themselves after.
My second though was to wonder if I am like this journalism prof. Am I limited to teaching students how to account? Or do I hold up great accountants for students to learn from? Great accountants can serve as role models.
I must conclude that I don’t provide my students with an opportunity to learn from great accountants.
I used to cover accounting history in Intermediate Accounting I. I went back to days of antiquity, and the rudimentary record keeping of Egypt and Babylon. I would mention accounting practices of Rome and England. Then there would be more time spent on the economic developments that spurred creation of the accounting system of Venice, which Luca Pacioli dutifully wrote down in The Summa. Eventually, I’d get to modern times.
But, I don’t think I’ve ever thought of having students learn from the great accountants themselves.
The Fisher College of Business at Ohio State University has maintained an Accounting Hall of Fame (capitalized because there are no other accountant halls) since 1950, and in 62 years has inducted 93 accountants. Membership in this hall is largely limited to professors, although a few practitioners and regulators are recognized, including Arthur Andersen, Leonard Spacek, Walter Scheutze, James Leisenring, Denny Beresford and David Walker.
Accounting Today has been publishing a list of 100 influential people in accounting for over 25 years, and that is an additional source of great accountants.
I might very well cover great accountants when I start teaching this fall at the Johnson College of Business at the University of South Carolina-Upstate. I probably will start with a list of today’s greats. Lynn Turner, former Chief Accountant, is a must, of course. Charley Niemeier of the PCAOB is a model for service to the profession and society. But then, I think that Denny Beresford and Cynthia Cooper are automatics. Perhaps even segments with convicted felons Sam Antar (Crazy Eddie’s) and David Myers (WorldCom) would be educational. I might even have the class study accounting journalists such as Michael Rapoport (WSJ) and Jonathan Weil (Bloomberg).
What do you think about the study of great accountants?
Debit and credit – – David Albrecht