The son of Leopold Paul and Emma Cejka Spacek was born September 12, 1907, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Of a financially poor family, he began working at an early age in his life. In 1924, at the age of seventeen and before he had completed high school, he accepted a job in the accounting department of the Iowa Electric Light and Power Company. While working he continued his high school education during the evenings, and through correspondence he completed the credit requirements for graduation which were ultimately accepted by the University of Illinois as a basis for sifting for the CPA examination in 1940.
He attended evening classes at Coe College (1926-27) and the University of Chicago (1930-32) but he did not complete the requirements for a degree. He received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Coe College (1962) and honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degrees from the National College of Education (1967) and Northwestern University (1978).
In 1928 he accepted a position as a junior accountant on the Chicago staff of Arthur Andersen & Co. He was made a manager in 1934, and a partner in 1940, the same year he became a CPA (Illinois). In 1947 he was selected as the firm's second managing partner after the death of Mr. Arthur Andersen. He held this position until 1963 when he was selected chairman of the partners. In 1970 he was elected senior partner, the position he held at retirement in 1973.
He has been very active in both professional and civic organizations. He served on the APB of the AICPA from 1960 to 1965. He was a member of the AICPA's Project Advisory Committee for the accounting research study on basis postulates of accounting and chairman of the committee for the accounting research study on goodwill. He has served in various leadership capacities for over 70 civic organizations, education boards, and government agencies. The following listing indicates the diversity of his involvements. He served on the Executive Board of the Chicago Area Council, Boy Scouts of America (1963-73); director, Junior Achievement of Chicago (1951-65); director, Goodwill Industries (1950-73); Advisory Committee, Chicago Hospital Council (1960-66); trustee, U. S. Council, International Chamber of Commerce (1965-71); trustee, Coe College (1962-73; Life Membership, 1973); director, Chicago City College (1967-68); consultant, U. S. Bureau of the Budget (1964-73); and member, Industry Advisory Council to the Secretary of Defense (1968-73).
He has written numerous articles for professional journals and has made over 200 speeches. In 1986 he received the Academy of Accounting Historians' Hourglass Award for his book entitled The Growth of Arthur Andersen & Co., 1928-1973 [an oral history] (1985). Many of his articles and speeches dealt with the need of the accounting profession to define the objectives of accounting as a proper background for its consideration of individual problems. He is a crusader to ensure that the overriding objective of accounting is the presentation of financial information which will be "fair" to all segments of society who are the users of the information.
He has been honored on numerous occasions for his distinguished leadership and service. He was a supporter of the establishment of the Cost Accounting Standards Board and in 1974 he received that organization's first award for outstanding public service. He was the 1966 recipient of the Alpha Kappa Psi Foundation Accounting Award, and in 1973 Loyola University awarded him the Damen Award. In 1970 he received the Knight's Cross, First class, of the Royal Order of St. Olav from the King of Norway. Mayor Richard J. Daley of Chicago presented him with the Chicago Medal of Merit in 1973. In 1955 he was selected as an honorary member of the University of Illinois chapter of Beta Alpha Psi. A Chair in Accounting was established in his name at Northwestern University's J. L. Kellogg Graduate School of Management in September 1978.
He married Libbie Smatlan on January 19, 1929; they had two children. She died on January 1, 1983. His chief hobbies are enjoying his grandchildren and reading history.