Nicholas Dopuch working with a student in 1988.
Nicholas Dopuch, 88: Transformational figure for Olin, accounting research
Nicholas Dopuch, 1929-2018

Nicholas Dopuch, 1929-2018

Olin Emeritus Professor Nicholas Dopuch, a transformational figure in the world of accounting research who past deans credit with profoundly elevating the business school’s profile, died on Sunday. He was 88.

Praise for Dr. Dopuch’s influence as a researcher, mentor, teacher, and friend poured into Mahendra Gupta’s email inbox following the news. Former colleagues and students from the University of Chicago, Stanford University, the University of Illinois, and numerous other institutions expressed their sorrow at Dr. Dopuch’s passing and appreciation for his work and influence.

“I owe my career to him,” said Gupta, Olin’s former dean and Geraldine J. and Robert L. Virgil Professor of Accounting. “He was a mentor, a father-figure and he was a great guide, not just to me, but to every PhD student, faculty member, and others at the school.”

Background

Dr. Dopuch with former dean Bob Virgil.

Dr. Dopuch with former dean Robert L. Virgil.

Dr. Dopuch was born Nov. 15, 1929, in St. Louis, the son of Serbian parents who emigrated to the United States as teenagers. After a lackluster high school career at McKinley High, he worked for Anheuser-Busch and attended classes part-time at Washington University.

“I never anticipated an academic or professional career,” Dr. Dopuch said in a profile by the Accounting Hall of Fame. “In fact, were it not for the Korean War, I might have stayed with Anheuser-Busch because of the various ‘fringe benefits’ that went with the job.”

After his tour of duty with the US Air Force, he was persuaded that an education could benefit his long-term future. He went to college near his parents’ farm at Indiana State University in Terre Haute, Indiana.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in 1957; and his master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Illinois in 1959 and 1961, respectively. Prior to his tenure at Washington University, Dopuch taught at the universities of Chicago and Illinois and Indiana University.

Dr. Dopuch came to Olin in 1983 after a long tenure at the University of Chicago, where he was editor of the influential Journal of Accounting Research. Robert L. Virgil, who hired Dr. Dopuch when he was dean of WashU’s business school, said his stamp on accounting research resounded around the globe as he insisted on rigorous research to advance the field.

Introducing rigor into accounting research

Dr. Dopuch and former dean Mahendra Gupta.

With former dean Mahendra Gupta.

“Up to that point, it was armchair theorizing,” Virgil said on Monday. He said the impetus began in the 1960s with data on magnetic tapes the University of Chicago received recording price and volume information on securities trading. Research on that data spawned a revolution in empirical, data-driven accounting research that transformed the field.

“Frankly, he was just amazing,” Virgil said. “He read every paper. He made comments and suggestions. Those that were accepted, he made comments on. In that way, he really had influence on all of the accounting faculty around the country and around the globe.”

Both Virgil and Gupta credited Dr. Dopuch with bringing that intellectual rigor and influence to Olin when he came to the faculty. “When Dean Virgil hired him, he needed someone who could change the culture and set Olin on a different research trajectory,” Gupta said. “Nick did that for the business school.”

When he was hired, Dr. Dopuch became the first to assume the chair as Hubert C. and Dorothy R. Moog Professor of Finance. He directed Olin’s PhD program from 1986 through 2003, and continued as editor or co-editor of the Journal of Accounting Research while he was on Olin’s faculty until 2001, retiring from that post after 34 years.

Since 2008, Dr. Dopuch’s name has been attached to an annual accounting research conference Olin has hosted for 30 years, designed to create an environment where accounting research is the focal point, and drawing faculty participants from renowned business research institutions across the country.

Influence on students

Beyond his influence on accounting research, former colleagues and students recall Dr. Dopuch as a tough but caring professor who challenged students to challenge themselves.

Emails sent to Gupta on Sunday night hailed Dr. Dopuch for the “substantial effect” and the inspiration he had on the lives of students and fellow researchers, noting that his “contributions to the accounting profession and the academy, in particular, are unmatched.”

That influence was evident in the string of awards he received over his long career, including his 2001 induction into the Accounting Hall of Fame; two-time winner of the Outstanding Contribution to Accounting Literature Award from the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants; and the Olin Business School Dean’s Medal in April 1995.

Dr. Dopuch was also one of four Washington University faculty members to receive a Distinguished Faculty Award on Founders Day in 2004.

Arrangements

A Service of Witness to the Resurrection for Dr. Dopuch will be February 12, 2018, at 11 a.m. at Glendale Presbyterian Church, 500 N. Sappington Road, Glendale MO.

As an expression of sympathy, memorial contributions may be sent to Glendale Presbyterian Church, the Shriners, or Washington University (in support of the Dopuch Accounting Research Conference at Olin Business School), Campus Box 1202, One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO 63130.

He was preceded in death by his wife Barbara Scholl Dopuch and two sons, Nicholas E. Dopuch Sr. and Michael Dopuch; He is survived by a grandson, Nicholas E. Dopuch Jr. and several nephews and nieces.

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34 Responses to "Nicholas Dopuch, 88: Transformational figure for Olin, accounting research"

  1. avatar Seethu Seetharaman

    Saddened to hear about Nick’s passing. He was one of the biggest faculty names associated with Olin. I remember his long tenure as the doctoral program director. He has left a great professional legacy behind.

  2. avatar Tzachi Zach

    I was fortunate to have known Nick while I was a member of the faculty at Washington University between 2002-2008. Throughout these years, I have seen the incredible influence Nick had on our profession. It was great to listen to Nick’s former colleagues and students tell us about Nick’s early days as an academic, mentor, and journal editor. Nick’s influence on our profession was second to none, and he has helped many of us through his sage advice and guidance.

    He will be greatly missed.

    Tzachi

  3. avatar Samuel Chun

    Always to the point with his bone-dry sense of humor, he was a terrific mentor, and maybe closer to being my intellectual parent than he knew. I’ll miss him.

  4. avatar Chandra Seethamraju

    Nick will be missed. I worked closely with him from 2000 to 2006 when I was at Wash U. His contributions to Accounting Research are obvious and I will not dwell on those. He was this tough man with a gruff exterior but his heart was truly soft and was always in the right place. I was lucky enough to get to know that softer side of him and will cherish that forever. A true gentleman. RIP Nick!

  5. avatar Todd Milbourn

    Professor Dopuch was a legend in the field! I was honored to know him, learn from him, talk Cubbies with him, and even more honored to carry his named chair after his retirement. You have left an indelible mark on the WashU B School, and me, “Moog Senior”.

    With love and admiration, “Moog Junior”

  6. avatar Barton Hamilton

    I am very saddened to hear if Nick’s passing. Despite his gruff exterior, I always found him to be very supportive, especially as a young faculty member. I remember the numerous times he stopped by my office to say hello and to chat, usually about something related to the healthcare system. He was a role model for his high research standards and his loyalty to his fellow faculty members at Olin. I will miss him.

  7. avatar Chakravarthi Narasimhan

    I have known Nick for a long time. He had a very positive influence on his colleagues and the culture at Olin. He was instrumental in building a sharp research focus at Olin and was well admired by everyone. His influence contributions will last for generations especially among our accounting faculty. Goodbye my friend.

  8. avatar K. Ramesh

    Nick’s influence on accounting scholarship is phenomenal. Obviously, many were much closer to him to experience that first hand, but those of us who interacted with him periodically and had the opportunity to learn from his pioneering work continue to feel his impact on the field’s body of knowledge. I still recall my meeting with him when I was in the rookie market and doing some work on earnings persistence and unit roots, etc. His first question was what kind of a fricking BS is this unit root thing! He was of course referring to the need for stronger institutional foundation, but his openness made it all the more obvious!! Despite his poor health, his sense of humor never aged and it was a honor and delight to see him annually at his Wash U conference. More importantly, you felt good about yourself when he still remembered who you are. RIP, Nick.

  9. avatar Haresh Sapra

    Nick was a scholar and a gentleman with a lovely sense of humor. I will always remember the time I spent with him. He will be sorely missed…

  10. avatar Phil Dybvig

    I have known Nick almost as long as Chak. He was a crusty curmudgeon, even in 1988, but he had a heart of gold. He was thoroughly committed to the goal of building “a first-rate research-oriented business school at Washington University,” as Bob Virgil used to say, and he was certainly a leader in working towards that goal under Bob’s leadership. Nick was also a committed shepherd for his flock of junior accounting scholars, and he would wander up and down the hall, from office to office, to check up on his flock and offer them advice and encouragement.

  11. avatar Mort Pincus

    I’ll never forgot Bob Virgil coming to my office to tell me he had gotten me a new dissertation chair – Nick Dopuch was joining Wash. Univ.! In workshops Nick could always get to the heart of an issue and ask the most fundamental questions. He was at the same time rigorous and critical but also a pussy cat underneath. He listened – perhaps like no one else I’ve ever known; he really wanted to know what I thought. I cannot overstate how much that meant to me. I graduated in 1982 but even today when faced with a problem, I inevitably ask myself, “What would Nick do?” I will never forgot him.

  12. avatar Ambar Rao

    A great man with a genuine love of research. And beneath that gruff exterior was a fund of earthy stories and jokes!

  13. avatar Pingyang Gao

    I was fortunate enough to have one personal interaction with Nick when I was invited to teach a short PhD theory course at Wash U in the summer of 2012. When I arrived at the designated classroom 20 minutes before the appointed time in the first morning, Nick was sitting there. He inquired about my background, reminisced his interactions with Shyam after learning about my Yale connection, and asked me about my plan for the lectures. At that time his health was already deteriorating, and yet, he was still the “committed shepherd for his flock of junior accounting scholars.” His commitment to his colleagues and accounting research will be remembered.

  14. avatar A. Rashad Abdel-khalik

    I met Nick forty nine years ago. He and Barbara extended their arms and welcomed me to their homes in Chicago and St. Louis. In his own way of interrogative teaching, he inspired me to think and do what I thought was difficult to do. We have been close friends since 1970 and I went to visit him in St. Louis frequently. Although his health was deteriorating, he continued to have a sharp mind and a great wit. There was no time when he did not laugh and his eyes sparkled when he recalled some events from the past. I lost a dear friend but I will celebrate being close to him for half a century.

  15. avatar Siddhartha Chib

    Very saddened by the passing of Nick. He was a very fine person, deeply committed to his profession and work. I remember the many times he asked me about what was going on in econometrics with the aim of seeing what might be relevant for empirical work in accounting. He was a strong person too, not bothered by the elements. Once we chatted about a research problem outside Simon, as he waited for a ride to arrive. It was bitterly cold and while I nearly froze, Nick was unfazed by it all and happily continued the discussion while I wilted in front of him. It was great to know Nick. I will miss him.

  16. avatar Robert Libby

    I also met Nick 49 years ago and the last time I saw him was watching his video played at the 2015 JAR conference. His personality, his way of thinking, and his laugh still came through. And it was followed by thunderous applause. If he hadn’t spent so much time with me early in my career, my life would have been very different. I clearly learned more about what makes a good (and a bad) research idea, how to approach a research problem, and how to write a paper, than I did from any other professor or colleague. I was one of the lucky few to have Nick as a professor (at Illinois) and then as a colleague (at Chicago). My wife Pat and I also remember so fondly the many times Nick and Barbara invited us for dinner at their home. He will be sorely missed.

  17. avatar Mark Peecher

    Nick was one of the single most accomplished and influential accountancy scholars to ever graduate from Illinois. He indelibly and substantially shaped our discipline. Countless doctoral students and assistant professors, including myself, benefitted from Nick’s sage advice over the years. I am thankful that I had the honor to present papers at multiple workshops with Nick in the audience. He provided insightful written and workshop comments to help sharpen the thinking in the paper. Nick was such a generous man, giving of his time and resources. I remember an era in the late 90’s/early 2000’s when Nick drove up from Wash U to come teach archival financial seminars to Illinois doctoral students, challenging and preparing them for their careers.

  18. avatar Soo Young Kwon

    I used to have almost half-an-hour casual conversation with Nick when I made coffee at the faculty lounge in the early morning. I think that his insight and encouragement help me successfully finish my dissertation in 1991. I invited him and Babara to Korea in 1995. I took them to Seoul, Kyungju (1,000 yr old city), and Jeju island. I am reading this sad news here in Jeju Island. I hope that he can take peaceful rest with Babara.

  19. avatar Dave Ziebart

    Nick provided me with some opportunities that I never got to thank him for. As a new PHD who was submitting a methods paper to JAR, Nick helped me to develop an idea with some data into a published paper. That was my first publication and Nick was instrumental in helping me get it in good form. I know I am just one of many that Nick took under his wing and assisted us in becoming who we are….that is part of his legacy. His sense of humor and the twinkle in his eye as he told a story is hard to forget. Few can match the impact he had on many of us in many different ways. Having a beer with Nick at a conference was always a special time!

  20. avatar Theodore Sougiannis

    Nick was a good man and a great scholar. I always enjoyed his jokes and our discussions ranging from philosophical issues in accounting and auditing to geopolitical issues in the Balkan peninsula. He will be missed.

  21. avatar Dan Simunic

    Nick was my thesis chair at Chicago, friend, co-author, and occasional colleague (when I visited Wash U on sabbatical). I always enjoyed arguing with him about economics, politics, health care, research etc. etc – particularly over a few glasses of red wine! I owe my career to Nick, and remember him fondly. He was a great friend, and a great man who will live on in my heart.

  22. avatar Tony Kang

    We come across many people in life. Some leave a stronger impression than others do. He was one of those I will never forget. Not just his acumen and passion for accounting research, but rather the greatness of mind, never put into words, yet clearly conveyed through his existence. I am very fortunate to have known him.

  23. avatar Shane Moriarity

    A great man who helped a lot of us. What success I’ve had is due to his influence.

  24. avatar Greg Waymire

    Nick’s brain was like an idea magnet. He was able to quickly recognize ideas that were important and offered potential for insights that others could use. He then would “pound the halls” stopping in offices along the way and spread those ideas through personal interactions. These ideas would drop off him likes leaves in Autumn and surface in offhand comments about a paper that could then provide the basic question which in some cases would lead to new papers. My dissertation at Chicago had its roots in one of the Dopuch conversations. I suspect that I was not alone in this.

    He liked young people and was very generous with his time. During his time as an editor, I once heard him express frustration with a senior author who couldn’t write. But, he would then turn around and spend extra time with a young person’s poorly written paper (i.e., me). And, he would improve it by identifying the core of the paper better than the author had in writing up the original draft. I remember one workshop at Wash U in the mid-1980s where he said “Oh, it’s just like a knee” or some such comment. Of course, all of us were scratching our heads trying to make sense of what he was saying, but afterwards it was one of those comments where we ended up agreeing that he had made sense out of something that none of us understood.

    He was human. He had his imperfections and weaknesses, but was also humble and you could talk to him one-on-one. He was gruff, but had a heart of gold. His death has led me to think of several “Dopuch stories” involving him, Barbara, and others from that time. Each makes me smile.

    I know that my life would have been very different, and nowhere near as fulfilling, had I never met Nick Dopuch. Like many others from Chicago and Wash U, I saw him as a second father. (This was encouraged in me because he was the same age as my parents having been born in 1929 three weeks to the day after my own father and four weeks to the day before my mother.) I am heartbroken by his death and will be trying to pull together what his passing means for quite some time. My main thought right now is that I sure was lucky to have know him.

  25. avatar Jackson Nickerson

    Nick was one of the great heartbeats of Olin. Direct, but quick to smile and encourage. He didn’t just add to the school’s culture but helped to shape it. His imprint will last long beyond his departure from us and is a testimony to his many contributions to people and the institution.

  26. avatar Ray Ball

    Nick Dopuch played an important role in the early years of the second major wave of scholastic endeavor in accounting. Nick had been grounded in the first wave, dating approximately from Canning (1929) to the work of Chambers, Edwards and Bell, and others in the 1950s and 1960s, which consisted largely of normative theory. His 1961 doctoral thesis at Illinois was grounded in that literature; it was entitled “Toward a Theory of Information Processing in Corporate Reporting – a Proposal for Supplementary Data in the Annual Report.” The second wave (characterized by empirical research based on financial economic theory) originated at Chicago in the mid-1960s. What distinguished Nick at the time was how quickly and readily he embraced the paradigm change. I was a young doctoral student at the time, and I can attest that Nick was the only senior faculty member in accounting whose reaction to our work did not lie somewhere on the interval between skepticism and hostility. As is well known he single-handedly (without using a referee) published Ball and Brown (1968) in Journal of Accounting Research after it had been firmly rejected by The Accounting Review. And we were by no means the last young scholars who Nick influenced. He was always intellectually curious and open to new ideas. The literature owes a very large amount to him.

    What is less well known is that Nick had a substantial effect on my life in other ways too. In 1966 he was one of the reasons I went to Chicago to study in the first place. When I joined the faculty in 1969 we had adjacent offices for a while, and he was a constant source of encouragement and advice. My wife Jan and I regularly played pinochle with Nick and Barbara and we all had a lot of fun playing, eating and drinking with each other. What a pair of characters! I cherish his memory dearly.

  27. avatar Stuart Greenbaum

    Nick was among the faculty leaders at Olin when I arrived in1995 as dean, with dubious faculty support. He was among the very first to cut me some slack and for this I was and am eternally grateful. To be sure, he was a curmudgeon, but he was a self-assured and self-secure scholar without special needs from a new dean. I’m loathe to suggest that I won him over with either charm or competence. More likely my fumbling brought out his charitable side , rarely betrayed by condescension or knowing tolerance. We all know he was a very special person constructed like a good New York Bagel, crusty on the exterior but oh so soft inside. His authenticity is sorely missed.

  28. avatar CHUL W. PARK

    Nick was a great mentor for my PhD education at Olin. His insightful guidance woke me up and led me to learn broad paradigms of accounting research. I owe him a lot and it was my great fortune to be his student in good old days. I miss him dearly.

  29. avatar Tom Dyckman

    Nick accepted my second accounting research paper in the early sixties. It dealt with a field experiment involving the decisions of actual managers faced with alternative financial reporting information. This was a new area of research and I was pleased at the openness of JAR to consider the piece, let alone enthusiastically.
    But Nick was a often a tough customer. I recall a paper done with Hal Bierman. Nick wrote: I have reviewed your paper with Hal and have decided not to publish it in JAR. In reading the paper over again as I write, I do not advise a rewrite and resubmit. Indeed, this paper should simply not be published. In fact, Nick was right although I had a difficult time attempting to convincing my coauthor. Nick was helpful to junior faculty and tough – even short – on those who should have known better. he was an editor’s editor.

  30. avatar Shyam Sunder

    I gave these remarks at a reception for Nick Dopuch at AAA Annual Meeting, August 2008 in
    San Diego. They are still as relevant today when he is no longer with us.
    Shyam Sunder
    Time is short, and everyone here knows that Nick has no tolerance for insincerity and
    verbosity. So, I shall limit myself to three things I have learned from him since I first met him
    as a doctoral student at the Second AAA Doctoral Consortium in Salt Lake City in the summer
    of 1972.
    First: Telling the truth is more important than looking cool. One day I walked into his office at
    the University of Chicago and saw a stack of copies of an old Peanut cartoon strip. Lucy was
    writing as editor: “Dear Author, thank you for your manuscript which we are unable to accept
    because blah blah blah… I notice you sent your paper by first class mail. …Junk can be sent
    third class.” I do not know if he actually sent the strip to the authors of any JAR manuscripts,
    but we know that his stewardship of the JAR, guided by this unbending principles, took not only
    the journal but accounting research itself to new heights. His editorial stewardship defined the
    paradigm in accounting research which has prevailed now for over four decades.
    Second: Keep your mind open to the possibility that you might be wrong. In other words, don’t
    be too sure of yourself, and nurture some self-doubt. Of course, too much self-doubt is
    paralysis and too little leads to fossilization of research paradigms and brains into schools of
    thought and mindless herds. Ball and Brown paper was rejected as “not being accounting”
    before the JAR published it. But Nick knew too well the dangers of the success of a new
    research paradigm getting frozen into a new dogma and orthodoxy a decade or two later. Not
    many may know Nick’s critical role in initiating experimental economics (and several other
    research methods) into accounting. In working with him at the JAR, I repeatedly saw his eye
    functioning as a bubble chamber for detecting new creative sparks in accounting research; he
    never flinched from risky new ideas.
    Third: It is not the money. We all know the old saying: if someone says it is not the money,
    you can be sure that it is. I have never heard Nick use or imply these words. Yet from his
    work, behavior and legacy, this is what I have learned. We academics do not have to live like
    hermits and we don’t. We live comfortable middle class lives. If we are satisfied with that,
    and don’t chase the money beyond that level, a great deal more can be accomplished in our
    disciplines, and contributions to society.
    Nick will probably tell you that I have learned all the wrong lessons. When someone starts to
    B.S., he just walks away. He hasn’t so far, and I should quit while ahead.
    Nick, you have been a guiding light for so many in this room, in the U.S. and the world.
    Neither you nor I know most of them. On behalf of them all, THANK YOU!

  31. avatar Jake Thomas

    I wll never forget the twinkle in Nick’s eyes.
    They surely were a window to his soul: Bursting with life!
    Thank you Nick for shepherding us for so long.

  32. avatar Baruch Lev

    I came to Chicago as a CPA, so I didn’t plan to take any accounting courses, but everyone said: take Dopuch’s course. I took it and it started a lifelong friendship and deep appreciation for Nick as a human being, a scholar and editor. Nick was unique in all three. It was truly a pleasure to speak with him. Undoubtedly, the best sense of humor in accounting. We all take ourselves too seriously. I recently watched my son operating on the heart of a close-to-death person and realized how trivial are the issues that occupy us—accounting researchers.
    If something stands out among Nick’s great attributes it’s his editorship. Nick really understood and observed good research, and often overruled referees, for the better. I miss him a lot.
    When Nick commented in a seminar everyone listened attentively. You knew you are going to learn something, or at least laugh.
    Translating from Hebrew: Blessed be his memory.

  33. avatar Joel Demski

    first met Nick when I arrived at Chicago in 1963, as a new, utterly naive PhD student. I and many of my cohorts quickly figured out that behind the gruff demeanor was an extraordinary teacher and mentor. As time went on Nick and I learned a lot together, he served on my committee, and we coauthored. From there an enduring and cherished friendship developed.

    As I look back on Nick’s career what strikes me is it was never, ever about him, it was always about helping others — often in ways invisible to all but the recipient. He challenged, he poked, he guided. What an amazing legacy. What an amazing colleague. What an amazing friend.

    God blessed us with Nick.

  34. avatar Ira Solomon

    Like many, I first met Nick very shortly after completing my Ph.D. Program and becoming an assistant professor. I can recall how, on the one hand, Nick was more than willing to engage with young faculty while, on the other and, I can recall just how intimidating those very first engagements were. In many respects, Nick’s depth and breadth of knowledge (and opinions) made those early interactions as valuable as any seminar I had taken in my doctoral program.

    One of my very salient sets of memories relating to Nick is during the period in which he co-taught a doctoral seminar at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. I was one of the co-instructors but, in reality, I learned as much in the seminar as any enrolled student. During this time, on certain weekday evenings, Nick would join a group of accounting faculty in the evening for what we called an applied probability seminar. That is, a poker game. Some soft drinks would be consumed, as would adult beverages. The conversation at those sessions covering accounting issues and world events of the day was direct, blunt, instructive and, all together, invaluable. Nick was better than anyone I had met previously at challenging individuals who stated positions that were not well thought out, telling them with a smile that they were full of crap, but in a way that ultimately left the targeted individual smiling.

    As editor of JAR, Nick nurtured a huge number of young faculty members by helping them to improve their research papers to the point at which they could be published. Many of these papers were developed from dissertations, with the guidance of dissertation committee members. However, it was Nick’s keen insights into research methods, accounting issues and how to write a research paper that collectively was the difference maker.

    Others have characterized Nick like a good NY bagel—hard and crusty on the outside but soft on the inside. I could not agree more. Of course, as anyone from NY knows, the crust on the outside is at least as good as the soft inside—and that was very much the case for Nick. It was an honor and a privilege to know Nick.

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