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History

Over the past century, accounting has evolved from an important but largely internal managerial and clerical function into an integral and central element of both corporate management and global financial markets. This evolution continues to the present time in response to many factors including advances in transportation and production technology, the creation of accounting regulatory institutions, research developments in accounting and other fields, worldwide political change and the development of the global marketplace, and advances in electronic computing and communication technology.

Election to the Accounting Hall of Fame is perhaps the only longstanding national award for accountants -- and probably the only international one as well -- in which both academic and practicing accountants vie for the same award. The Accounting Hall of Fame was established at The Ohio State University in 1950 in conjunction with the annual conferences of the Ohio State Institute on Accounting which were initiated in 1938 and drew national accounting attendance. Thomas J. Burns and Edward N. Coffman chronicle the history of this organization and its conferences and note the evolution of national accounting meetings into more specialized domains. Their account is reproduced in Institute Conferences.

It is somewhat ironic that this award has survived for half a century while the conference tradition that created it has separated into fairly distinct academic and professional sectors. Why has the award survived all these changes in accounting and its environment? Perhaps one reason is that the criterion for the award is stated broadly and simply in terms of "contributions to the advancement of accounting." "Evidence of such service," say the current instructions to electors, "includes contributions to accounting research and literature, significant service to professional accounting organizations, wide recognition as an authority in some field of accounting, advancement of accounting education, and public service." Further, the award is reserved for accountants who have "reached a position of eminence from which the nature of his or her contributions may be judged." This orients the award toward lasting contributions to the field. To emphasize this orientation of the award, membership in the Hall was broadened in 2000 to provide for the election of "early contributors" whose contributions were not fully recognized by their contemporaries.

Another reason for the award's survival is that the selection process is broadly representative and is largely independent of the fairly stable organization that administers it. The 45 members of the Board of Nominations include representatives from the principal domains of accounting, defined by the Hall's rules as "public accounting, educators, and industrial and governmental accountants." Beginning in 1973, the Board membership was broadened to include international representatives. Although Board members are selected by a committee of the Ohio State University accounting faculty with the advice of present Board members, living members of the Ohio State University faculty are not eligible for Board membership or for membership in the Hall.

Another factor in the long life of the Hall is the early momentum created for the award by Ohio State's Institute on Accounting. It enabled the founders of the Hall to assemble and maintain a distinguished Board of Nominations and, for fourteen years, it provided an established setting for the induction ceremony. And credit must be given to the many faculty at Ohio State who labored to maintain the award and the conferences tradition from which it arose. Notable among them are Hermann C. Miller, who played a prominent role in the establishment and operation of the Ohio State Institute of Accounting, and Thomas J. Burns, who revived the Accounting Hall of Fame in the early 1970s following a period of intermittent operation and continued to administer its operation until 1993.

Finally, and most importantly, credit must be given to the many individuals from both accounting practice and academe who have participated in the Board of Nominations, who have attended the various conferences and ceremonies associated with the Hall, and who have valued induction into the Hall and the association it creates among those who, during the past century, have made significant contributions to the field of accounting.

Daniel L. Jensen