Known for the originality and rigor of his research, this distinguished and consummate scholar has played a leading role in accounting research for over three decades. He was born in 1940 in Sturgis, Michigan, the second of five children born to George and Athalia Demski. Both his mother, who was a high school graduate, and his father, who did not complete grammar school, stressed the importance of education. In the early 1940s, the family moved to Pinconning, Michigan, where he spent his early years and where his father founded a small manufacturing company.
His own interests and his parent's business led him to study engineering at the University of Michigan, where he arrived just after the launching of Sputnik and the resultant revitalization of engineering education. "After engineering school," he recalls, "I was not sufficiently intrigued by family business, the auto industry in general, or consulting to leave what I had discovered to be the joys of university life." Thus he remained at Michigan after his BSE in industrial engineering (1962) and enrolled in its MBA program where he encountered William A. Paton and took courses from Stephen A. Zeff and Samuel R. Hepworth, who kindled his interest in accounting and encouraged him to pursue a Ph.D.
He received his MBA degree with high distinction in 1963 and, after reviewing business Ph.D. program catalogs in the University of Michigan library, he selected the University of Chicago because it appeared open to an emphasis on mathematics. He was awarded a Ford Foundation Fellowship and moved to Chicago. There he worked with Sidney Davidson, Nicholas Dopuch, Charles Horngren and a host of other faculty as well as fellow students such as William Beaver and Philip Brown. Charles Horngren became his advisor and led him through the experience of a dissertation and into a distinguished academic career.
When he completed his Ph.D. in 1967, he took his first professorial position at Columbia University, where he worked with Carl L. Nelson. He recalls, "Chuck Horngren and the Chicago experience taught me how to think, and Carl taught me what it means to be a professor." In 1968, he joined the accounting faculty at Stanford University where he held the Paul Holden Professorship and later the Joan E. Horngren Professorship in Accounting. In 1985, he moved to Yale University to become the Milton Steinbach Professor of Information and Accounting Systems and in 1994, to the University of Florida to become the Frederick E. Fisher Eminent Scholar in Accounting.
His pathbreaking work on applications of information economics and agency theory to accounting is presented in 60 published journal articles, 5 books, and over 25 other published papers. His work and that of the countless students he inspired has created a new domain for accounting theory. He is one of the most widely cited authors in the accounting literature and many of his papers have been awarded national prizes for their importance and influence. One of his first papers, "An Accounting System Structured on a Linear Programming Model," won the 1967 AICPA Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Accounting Literature and 3 years later, another paper, "The Use of Models in Information Evaluation" (written with his former colleague Gerald Feltham), captured the same award. Another early paper, "Decision Implementation Interface ..." won the 1969 American Accounting Association Competitive Manuscript Award. His articles have been required reading for doctoral students for over three decades, and his doctoral seminars, which he has delivered to many universities, are nationally know for their insights and their capacity to inspire and prepare students for research. His most recent book, Managerial Uses of Accounting Information, brings this important work and his insightful thinking about fundamental accounting problems to interested students at all levels.
For many years, he has played an active role in the American Accounting Association. He has served on many of its committees and editorial boards. Next year he will serve as its president-elect. He has also been a member of the editorial boards of the Journal of Accounting Research and many other journals. He is known as a true scholar for his probing mind and uncompromising pursuit of excellence. He is also well-known as a mentor and as a superb example for others because of his willingness to invest himself in the work of his colleagues and students.
His many honors include an honorary doctorate from Odense University in Denmark, the American Accounting Association's Outstanding Educator Award (1986), multiple awards of the AICPA-AAA Outstanding Contribution to Accounting Literature Award (1967 and 1970), and the University of Florida Foundation Research Professorship.
In 1964, he married Millie Sobieray. They have three children, Jay, Rachel and Sybil. His hobbies center on beach activities, twentieth century history, and sporting clays. He is the 64th member of the Accounting Hall of Fame, Joel Stanley Demski.