Nearly a half century, well-accounted

ZeffIn August, after 49 years of teaching since earning his PhD from the University of Michigan, Dr. Stephen A. Zeff, Herbert S. Autrey Professor of Accounting, did not retire. Instead, he presented the Presidential Scholar Address at the annual meeting of the American Accounting Association in Denver. His lecture, The Evolution of the IASC into the IASB, and the Challenges It Faces, was delivered to the entire body of the AAA, which included many former and current colleagues, research collaborators and friends.

In acknowledgement of the high regard in which he is held, as well as his distinguished career as an accounting educator and scholar — at Rice since 1978 and, before that, Tulane University since 1961 — Dr. Zeff’s Rice colleagues planned an event to pay tribute to his years of teaching, research, and influence on the discipline and what comes next. Guests gathered for a cocktail reception and dinner at the Hyatt Regency to applaud, roast and reward a man who, in the words of Peter Firmin, dean emeritus, Daniels College of Business at Denver University, “is meticulous, a mentor to faculty and students, a student’s friend, a visionary, and a leader. He set the standards for achievement and ethical conduct.”

The stories about Dr. Zeff flowed all evening. Beginning with a welcome by Thomas Dyckman, professor emeritus of accounting at Cornell University’s Johnson Graduate School of Management and master of ceremonies, Dean Bill Glick, followed by formal comments from colleagues — first Firmin then Charles Horstmann, Robert Herz, Gary Sundem and J. Howard Creekmore Professor Emeritus Bala Dharan.

Before getting up to express his gratitude, Dr. Zeff was presented with a crystal owl mounted on a black marble base engraved with the words, “Stephen A. Zeff, Herbert S. Autrey Professor of Accounting, for his distinguished career as an accounting scholar and educator, August 8, 2011, Denver Colorado.” When the floor was finally his, the room went quiet.

Dr. Zeff spoke of his travels, experiences, personal relationships and his love for teaching. He spoke about his international accounting approach to teaching and how that affected his career and thanked Gil Whitaker who always gave him good advice. After a standing ovation, Dr. Karen Nelson, accounting area coordinator and professor of accounting, closed the evening with an expression of her respect for his impact on the Jones School and his contributions to Rice University.

Along with teaching in the new accounting PhD program and research with a history of the International Accounting Standards Board and other projects, Dr. Zeff will find time to accept other awards, including the International Federation of Accountants International Gold Service Award in Berlin and an honorary doctorate in economic and management sciences from Universidad de Alcala in Madrid, both this month. The accolades just keep coming in what is now Dr. Zeff’s 50th year of teaching.

Read this article in its entirety in the fall issue of The Parliament, the accounting group newsletter, coming soon to the website. Dr. Zeff’s presentation of the Presidential Scholar Address is available in its entirety here