Impressions of a Scholarly Gentleman: Professor Louis Goldberg

Article excerpt

Abstract: This study presents a personal portrait of Emeritus Professor Louis Goldberg, a prominent founder of accounting education and research in the Australian academic community. It offers a distinctive view of Professor Goldberg through its employment of oral history research method. The data and findings presented herein are based on interviews with Professor Goldberg and both past and present academic colleagues. The paper reviews his formative years and his role as a professor and administrator, as well as teacher and researcher. Also documented are his perspectives on the education process and some of his own personal characteristics that have played a part in his academic career.

"He is one of my ideas of a real true gentleman."

J. McMahon 12 Dec. 1988

This paper presents an oral history study of Professor Louis Goldberg, a founder of Australian accounting academia. Goldberg stands as one of the earliest full-time accounting teachers in the Australian university system and one of the most prominent early Australian accounting researchers. The study focuses upon his personal career, characteristics, and environmental influences, particularly in order to lay a foundation for future re-evaluations of his writings. After reviewing his education and early professional career, the study outlines his early academic career and examines his style of administrative leadership, his approach to teaching and his commitment to research. In addition attention is paid to Goldberg's personal characteristics, interests and perspectives and their impact on his thought and writing in accounting. Thus is presented a portrait of an individualistic, catholic and socratic scholar, to this day unique in Australian and international accounting academia.

INTRODUCING LOUIS GOLDBERG

Louis Goldberg was born on 22 February 1908 and after completing his secondary education at University High School, undertook all of his tertiary academic qualifications at the University of Melbourne, where he also spent his entire academic career. He rose from part-time tutor in 1931, through the ranks of lecturer, senior lecturer, and associate professor, to the rank of Professor and Head of the Department of Accounting. The lectureship to which he was appointed in 1946 was the first fulltime lectureship in accountancy in an Australian university [Kerr and Clift, 1989]. The Chair in Accounting at Melbourne University he occupied was the first chair in accounting established in an Australian university, being first held part-time from 1954 to 1957 by Sir Alexander Fitzgerald, and second held full-time by Louis Goldberg from 1958 to 1973.

Goldberg educated many foundation professors' of accounting at other Australian universities and was one of the initiators of the Australian Association of University Teachers of Accounting, the forerunner of the Accounting Association of Australia and New Zealand. He has made many important contributions to the literature on accounting theory and has had an ongoing commitment to the development of accounting history (refer Appendices A and B). To this day, he has remained an active accounting educator and researcher, continuing an involvement in teaching, research, publishing, and refereeing for research journals. He has been honored by the designation of Professor Emeritus by the University of Melbourne, by election to the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia, by appointment as an Officer of the Order of Australia by the Queen through the Governor General of Australia, and by election to life membership of the Academy of Accounting Historians and the Accounting Association of Australia and New Zealand [Kerr and Clift, 1989]. Most recently, he has been appointed adjunct Professor to the David Syme School of Business at Monash University for a term of three years, 1992-95.

This study presents a personal portrait of the man behind these achievements. While Professor Goldberg has been widely recognized in Australia as a "founding father" of university teaching and research in accounting, it is arguable that his writings hold insights and lessons for the philosophy and practice of accounting yet to be fully realized and appreciated. …