Born an identical twin in Elkhart, Indiana, his father was from Chicago and his mother from Toronto, Canada. Following graduation from high school, he attended the University of Illinois where his interest in accounting was fostered by the excellent courses taught by Hall of Fame Member Robert K. Mautz, Arthur R. Wyatt, and other members of the Department of Accountancy. Upon completing his Bachelor of Science degree in accountancy, he served for two years in the U. S. Army, and upon discharge, enrolled at the University of Chicago where he earned an M.B.A. degree. He became a Certified Public Accountant and joined the firm of Arthur Andersen & Co. in 1956.
In 1967, he was appointed Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Financial Management, a post he held for four years. Returning to Arthur Andersen & Co., he was instrumental in the firm's efforts to encourage public discussion on the need for sound financial reporting within the public sector. He headed a research project that reviewed financial reporting practices of the federal government and recommended preparation of consolidated financial statements. He was also responsible for engagements involving compliance with federal election laws and was the engagement partner when the firm was retained to assist the Treasury Department in dealing with New York City's financial crisis in the mid-1970s.
Appointed by President Reagan to a fifteen-year term as Comptroller General of the United States in 1981, he aggressively pursued the mandate of the General Accounting Office resulting in increased visibility and effectiveness for the agency. Under his leadership, the GAO became involved in major issues ranging from health care reform and the savings and loan crisis to the federal budget deficit and efforts to "reinvent government." In addition, as Comptroller General, he played a key role in helping to resolve the fiscal crises at Lockheed, Penn Central, the Chrysler Corporation, and Conrail. He was instrumental in Congress' passage of the Single Audit Act of 1984, requiring annual audits for state and local governments, and the Chief Financial Officers' Act of 1990, requiring federal department and agencies to prepare financial statements and undergo annual financial audits. During his term, he testified before congressional committees over 200 times, and, under his direction, the GAO more than doubled the number of reports to Congress and greatly increased the frequency of congressional testimony by GAO officials.
Recently invited to be a trustee of the Financial Accounting Foundation, he has been an active contributor to many organizations, including the advisory councils of both the Financial Accounting Standards Board and the Governmental Accounting Standards Board. He chaired the Railroad Accounting Principles Board for three years and is one of the three principals of the Federal Accounting Standards Advisory Board. Under his chairmanship, the International Organization for Supreme Audit Institutions, an organization comprised of his counterparts from around the world, adopted international standards and guidelines for auditing, internal control, and accounting in governments. He holds five honorary doctorates and is the recipient of many other honors and awards.
His hobbies include reading and golf, and he resides with his wife, the former Mary C. Mahoney of Chicago, in Bethesda, Maryland. They have two grown children, Kathryn and Stephen. He is the 57th member of the Accounting Hall of Fame, The Honorable Charles A. Bowsher.