Thomas Junior Burns was born in Arena, Wisconsin in 1923, and grew up in a small town near Madison. He played football in high school and graduated at the top of his class. Following high school, he enrolled as a part-time student at the University of Wisconsin, working full-time for Gisholt Machine Company to financially assist his sister in attending college.
In March, 1943, he entered military service and served as a staff sergeant with the U.S. Army in Europe during World War II. He returned to the University of Wisconsin in December, 1945, where he completed a degree in accounting and American history. Following graduation in 1948 and a brief stint with the Wisconsin Department of Taxation, he became controller for Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin, leading to a CPA in 1952.
In addition to the controllership responsibilities, the post included an opportunity to teach the beginning accounting course. Working in this small liberal arts school kindled his interest in a teaching career and, in 1955, he entered the University of Michigan to pursue graduate studies. He received an MBA in 1957. Following a year on the accounting faculty at Southern Illinois University, he entered the University of Minnesota, where he subsequently earned a Ph.D. in accounting under the direction of Carl L. Nelson.
In 1963, he accepted a position at The Ohio State University as Associate Professor of Accounting. Except for brief visiting appointments at Stanford University, Harvard University, the University of Chicago, and the University of California at Berkeley, he spent the remainder of his academic career at Ohio State, where he was promoted to Professor of Accounting in 1967 and served as Department Chair from 1977 to 1981.
He was totally dedicated to Ohio State's accounting students and programs. He founded the honors accounting program in the late 1960's and served as its director until his retirement in 1994. Working with the honors program and the Omicron Chapter of Beta Alpha Psi, he molded an extraordinary educational experience for hundreds of accounting students. That experience included the Beta Alpha Psi National Student Seminar, which he founded and which was later named in his honor. He also served as director of Ohio State's accounting Ph.D. program for over 20 years and mentored dozens of new entrants to accounting academe who remember him as an insightful and tough-minded adviser. In the early 1970's, he revitalized the Accounting Hall of Fame and served as its chair until his death in 1996.
In addition to papers in academic and professional journals, his scholarly publishing included several books and many edited conference proceedings. Several of these proceedings were instrumental in raising the importance of behavioral and social phenomena in accounting research. He also was a strong proponent of innovation in accounting education, and for nearly 30 years, McGraw-Hill published his Accounting Trends, an annual collection of innovative course outlines.
He served as national President of Beta Alpha Psi, Director of Education for the American Accounting Association, and President of the Academy of Accounting Historians. He made lasting contributions to the programs of all these organizations and received honors and awards from virtually every organization in which he became involved. These many honors include the Outstanding Educator Awards from both the American Institute of CPAs (1989) and the American Accounting Association (1992). He also was the first recipient of the Ohio Outstanding Educator Award.
He retired from Ohio State as Deloitte & Touche Professor of Accounting in 1994. Despite the limitations imposed by severe arthritis, he continued to advise students and colleagues and to work on matters related to Beta Alpha Psi and the Accounting Hall of Fame until his death on January 10, 1996. He is the 60th member of the Accounting Hall of Fame, Thomas Junior Burns.