As those who have preceded me into the Accounting Hall of Fame in recent years will know, one's first intimation of the conferment of this high honor comes in the form of a telephone call from Tom Burns. As I have told him, I rank that call with only two others in my professional career. The first was a telephone call from Bob Anthony early in 1963, inviting me to spend the year 1963-64 in Switzerland with my family, teaching at IMEDE. It turned out to be a fabulous year. The other was a call from Charlie Zlatkovich in 1976, saying that I had been nominated as president-elect of the American Accounting Association. Other nice things have happened over the years by mail, or by cable (as in the case of the invitation in 1959 to join the Wharton faculty). But by telephone, these are the three occasions I shall remember.
First, let me acknowledge some debts. It is true, as Chuck Horngren recognized two years ago on a similar occasion, that in naming specific individuals one runs the risk of omitting some deserving names. But I am going to accept that risk.
My greatest debt, of course, is to my wife, Miriam. She has been by my side now for almost 50 years, and no other influence can compare with hers.
However, there have been other influences. One was a certain teacher of English in my London secondary school, so many years ago, who almost brutally instilled some rules that have helped me to write better English than I might otherwise have done He had a number of "forbidden words," the use of which automatically earned you a zero for an essay. His forbidden words included "very," "extremely," "former" and "latter"; and there were others. During the intervening 65 years, I have often broken his rules, but always to the detriment of my writing.
Another debt of the same kind that I acknowledge is to Reed Storey, whose editing of my drafts when we were working together on the FASB's Concepts Statement No. 2 on Qualitative Characteristics greatly improved that document and my writing generally. I am much more sensitive to dangling participles, the common misuse of "this" when one means "that," the misuse of "which" instead of "that," and other linguistic blunders than I was previously.
My main debt, of an academic nature, is undoubtedly to the faculty of the London School of Economics, both in the classroom when I was a student, and later as colleagues when I went back to teach there for almost a decade after World War II. To have rubbed shoulders with men like Arnold Plant and Ronnie Edwards (both later knighted), Lionel Robbins (later Lord Robbins), my immediate colleagues William Baxter and Harold Edey, Basil Yamey (that fine accounting historian for whom I accepted the Hourglass award here on Sunday evening), and no fewer than four Nobel prize winners in economics (John Hicks, James Meade, Friedrick Hayek, and Ronald Coase), was a rare privilege. This must sound like name-dropping; but these men really have exerted a lasting influence on me. Lie at LSE during my years there was life in an intellectual powerhouse.
Most American academics start their careers by writing a dissertation for their Ph.D., mining one or two papers out of it, and then going on from there. My start was different, and I was reminded of it recently when my wife and I were in London, riding down Oxford Street in a bus, past D. H. Evans, a department store. D. H. Evans, in 1947 or thereabouts, gave me the idea for my first serious paper. I was having lunch there one day and I noticed that the dining room was divided into two sections by moveable screens. On one side of the screens, the space was devoted to a self-service cafeteria, while the other side was devoted to waitress service. This led me to think how I would position the screens if I were the restaurant manager. …