Richard Thomas Baker
Always a leader, his lifetime, like [that of] Gaul, can be divided into three parts, each one crowned with distinction and widespread recognition. In the first phase, Richard Thomas Baker achieved the ambition of every American schoolboy to become a national champion athlete. In his maturity, he rose through the ranks of his public accounting firm to become its managing partner and worldwide leader for over a dozen years during a period of increased awareness of accounting information, great professional growth, and major social change. In the third phase, for a fifteen year period, he served on the boards of directors of seven fortune 500 companies (none of which were clients of Ernst & Ernst).
In 1986, he was selected by the National Association of Corporate Directors as the outstanding director of the year. On all seven companies, he was chairman of their increasingly powerful audit committees. After retirement he enjoyed golf, fishing, and hunting and had time to enjoy the accomplishments of others including those of his four college degree children and playwright son. He also kept close tabs on the pronouncements of the Financial Accounting Standards Board. Born during World War I in Anderson, Indiana on September 4, 1917, he was educated in a one-room school house through the sixth grade. He was the youngest of three sons of a father who worked for General Motors-Delco Remy Division for 35 years at a managerial level. In Anderson High School, Dick achieved the dream of every Indiana youth. In his senior year, he starred on the basketball team which won the state championship and was named on the all-state team. He came to Ohio State with only a waiver of the out-of-state-tuition to play basketball and to major in accounting. He worked part-time as an assistant trainer to support himself for four years. His many honors included being elected president of his fraternity, president of an all-university honorary and president of his senior class. He was on the basketball team from his sophomore year on. In his senior year he led the team to the Big Ten Championship and received All-American honors. The team was defeated in the final game of the first National College Championship in 1939.
After graduation, the only one of his family to [marry], he married Marty, the Ohio State senior prom queen. In 1939, the country was still recovering from the Great Depression, jobs in public accounting were difficult to get, and notwithstanding his academic record, he went with Goodyear. Six months later, he was hired temporarily with the firm A. C. Ernst had started in Cleveland in 1903. After the busy season, the firm let go many of the temporary hires but not, of course, Dick Baker. He rose through the ranks still as a temporary hire until he became managing partner, a post he held for 13 years. He refined Ernst's concepts with emphasizing client services by having the most offices of a firm, always offering management services and by stressing interaction of its members with its clients, the business community, and beyond. In a period spanning four wars and thirty-seven years with the firm, he switched the firm's role from avoiding involvement in national and global accounting policy to one of its most effective and respected participants in these matters. He faced an ever increasing demand for reliable and comprehensive financial information. This rising demand brought about increasingly active capital markets and the expansion of American business. Accounting became front page news as society pressed through courts and Congress for more publicly available accounting. He led his firm [among others] to become leading participants in meeting these challenges and in vindicating the accounting profession as a vital and effective private-sector financial information function. The firm's direct involvement was supported by extensive and widely disseminated publications.
Examples of programs once unique were the faculty assistance program for minority colleges--a leave of absence-salary continuation program and annual academic seminars, schools of accounting and accounting accreditation. His leadership demonstrated an understanding of social issues and the needs of education. For decades he had shown extraordinary leadership in the voluntary sector now called United Way. He had long been active in Blue Coats, Inc., an organization which gives assistance to families of police and firemen killed in the line of duty. He helped arrange the Metropolitan Opera cross country tours. He served on the founding Ohio Board of Regents which formulated a master plan for higher education in Ohio. Without parallel, for his dedication as an alumnus, he had been awarded two honorary doctorates and was named as the National Public Accountant of the Year.
Without peer for achieving equilibrium of the firm's professional integrity, professional innovation and entrepreneurial competitiveness, he was the 53rd Accounting Hall of Fame Member. Richard Thomas Baker died on December 7, 2002 at age 85.