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.”
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
“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.
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.