Accounting Hall of Fame Induction: Donald James Kirk

By Kolton, Paul; Jensen, Daniel L. et al. | The Accounting Historians Journal, June 1997 | Go to article overview

Accounting Hall of Fame Induction: Donald James Kirk


Kolton, Paul, Jensen, Daniel L., Kirk, Donald James, The Accounting Historians Journal


October 19,1996 Chicago, Illinois Remarks, Citation, and Response DONALD JAMES KIRK

Max M. Fisher College of Business THE OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY

REMARKS by Paul Kolton Stamford, Connecticut

It's a pleasure to celebrate one of those human curios who brings distinction to everything he does and in the case today, to the Hall of Fame itself. Don Kirk has had a number of careers-accounting professional, corporate director, (top) civic official, executive in residence at Columbia University, leader of important not-for-profit organizations-and for fourteen astonishing and tumultuous years, an FASB Board member and for nine of those years, Chairman of the Financial Accounting Standards Board.

It was during that period as head of the Board's Advisory Council that I learned a great deal about standard setting but I learned a great deal more about Don Kirk. In the perspective of time I have come to think of him as a kind of historical accident. He has the brains, the patience, the eloquence, the high standards-that combination that one person rarely possesses-and he was in the right place and it was the right time. For the Board and for the idea that private people can effectively and independently set their own standards, the Kirk years will be a kind of watershed, a golden age.

Without a lot of high drama, without more emotion that he needs and without rhetoric he went about the business of orchestrating change with three strikingly necessary characteristics: an in flexible fidelity to independence and high standards that serve a public purpose;

an irresistible insistence that things move forward, that they get done openly, and get done right; and,

finally, he developed a heat resistant shield that NASA should explore.

The result, I think, is that it will still be years before we appreciate what the FASB has become and what Don and his associates constructed. He also, as we learned, opened a door that was often closed. It is called "communications" and he showed us about the meaning of messages and how to read them. It is a complicated, continuing process.

Jack Benny once complained to a reporter that although he and George Burns were very close and had been so for years, he (Benny) could never-but never-communicate well enough with Burns to make him laugh. "Once, though," he said, "I thought I had him. George called my hotel room from the lobby and said he was coming up. I got undressed, stood naked on a table, posing like a statue with a rose in my hand. I thought he'd come in the door; he'd have to laugh." "So .... What happened?" the reporter said. "He sent the maid in first," Benny replied.

And so the process goes on, but this special moment is for someone who by way of Ohio and Yale and Price Waterhouse came to the Board in its very early days under Marshall Armstrong, who over the years established the institution's independence so that it is curiously rock-hard and fragile at the same time, who reached the high places the hard way, who had a sense of what the Board ought to be and made it that way. You look back and realize, as someone once described it, that nobody captured his colors and nobody silenced his drums.

CITATION written by Daniel L. Jensen, Professor Fisher College of Business The Ohio State University read by Paul Kolton Stamford, Connecticut

This newest member of the Accounting Hall of Fame was born to a father who emigrated from Scotland at the age of 18 to become a self-educated C.P.A. and a mother born in Cleveland of parents who emigrated from Latvia. He put most of his teen-age energies into athletics, culminating in being captain of his Shaker Heights (Ohio) High School football, basketball, and golf teams. Encouraged by his father to pursue a liberal arts education, he enrolled at Yale. During his freshman year, injuries, and what he describes as limited skills, quickly ended his collegiate athletic career. …

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