The Hourglass Award of the Academy of Accounting Historians is presented annually to an individual who has made a demonstrable and significant contribution to knowledge through research and publication in accounting history. The judging panel will echo the tradition of openness and flexibility associated with the Award and will emphasize the importance of contribution as the fundamental criterion. To that end there is no restriction as to who may make a nomination, the country in which the nominee is resident, or the paradigms and methodologies employed in the nominee’s work. Nominators are asked to supply a 200 word (maximum) statement summarizing the reasons why the nominee should be considered, full contact details of the nominator and nominee and a list of relevant contributions and any other relevant documentation supplied by the nominee who has agreed to be nominated.
Send nominations to: Academy Executive Committee at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Congratulations to the 2019 Recipient!
Richard (Rico) Mattessich
As the sands of time pass through the funnel, when you flip the hourglass over the past becomes the future.
Each year the Academy of Accounting Historians section presents the Hourglass Award to an individual who has made a demonstrable and significant contribution to knowledge through research and publication in accounting history. This year’s recipient is Richard (Ricco) Mattessich. On August 11, 2019, at the AAH Section’s Business Meeting at the AAA Annual Meeting, Guiseppe Galassi accepted the 2019 Hourglass Award on behalf of Richard Mattessich. He shared the following message.
I am here on behalf of Prof. Richard Mattessich who two days ago turned 97. Happy birthday! He wants to convey many thanks to all of you, particularly to the Selection Committee of the Academy for the Hourglass Award of 2019. He accepts this great honor once again with gratitude. The first time was in 2003. After that date he published three new books, specifically two of accounting history, and many articles.
He is a trained accounting historian, but also a theoretician and philosopher of accounting. He regards historical research as no less a search for truth than science. In his book, The Beginnings of Accounting and Accounting thought (2000), he expressed this issue with words that might be worth repeating at such an august moment:
Between history and science, there may be important methodological differences (as to generalizability, etc.), but the ultimate goal is surely the same: to approximate what one hopes to be truth, in as rigorous and honest a way, as one is capable of. But no human being can do this without at least some personal judgements. This is precisely why no history or other science can be an individual undertaking; it must be a social enterprise, inculcated with a dialectical process of not merely personal but, above all, a collective soul-searching, constantly adjusting and readjusting for all kinds of biases, be they those of individuals, of fashions, or technical-scientific limitations, etc. Only through such dialectics it is possible to keep one’s bearing on that loft objective which all authentic truth-seekers pursue.
He would be pleased if these words would be conveyed to the conference participants or an even wider audience, and sends kind personal regards to all of you.
San Francisco, August 11, 2019
Sadly, not two months later, Richard passed away and it is with honor that we share his obituary published in The Globe and Mail.
August 9, 1922 - September 30, 2019
In his 98th year, Richard (Ricco) Mattessich died peacefully on September 30, 2019 following a heart attack. Born in Trieste on August 9, 1922, Ricco demonstrated an early fascination with the structure, form, and configuration of his grandfather's financial records. The physical attributes of bookkeepers' notations fascinated the boy; in a 2014 interview, Ricco recalled how he "loved gazing at tidy columns of numbers, varying lengths of debit and credit lists, and the diagonal flourishes at the end of a reporting period." It was a passion that remained undimmed throughout his life. But with WWII on the horizon, Ricco needed a practical career and in 1940, he earned a degree in mechanical engineering from the Engineering College, Vienna.
Ricco spent much of the war in Thessaloniki (Salonica), Greece, where he carried out the detailed cost accounting required to build and repair bridges; partisan forces repeatedly destroyed these essential structures which in turn, were repaired by Nazi crews over and over again. As a young adult, Ricco experienced the effect of spiraling inflation first-hand when the cost of a glass of wine purchased one day was doubled the next. In 1944, Ricco returned to Vienna to pursue his interest in accounting, graduating with an MBA and later, a Ph.D. in economics. Throughout the intense bombardment of Vienna by Soviet forces, Ricco worked diligently on his dissertation in a series of air-raid shelters, such was his determination to complete his degree that a final oral exam was taken in a supposedly safe and secure location: a prison cell in the Rossauer Kaserne Barracks.
Exhausted by terrible post-war conditions in Vienna, Ricco sought, and found, solace teaching commerce in St. Gallen, Switzerland. Among Ricco's students was Christian Strauss, grandson of the composer and conductor, Richard Strauss, and Ricco was delighted to share the composer's box at the Zurich opening of his opera, Elecktra. On an impromptu visit home to Vienna, Ricco met the great love of his life, Hermine (Hermi), who shared Ricco's interest in accounting and his deep knowledge and appreciation of classical music. On their first date they attended a performance of Der Rosenkavalier and listening to the work became an anniversary tradition shared throughout their long-married life.
The couple emigrated to Canada in 1952, settling first in Montreal, then in Sackville, NB, where Ricco taught commerce at Mount Allison University. During this time, Ricco published a seminal paper discussing the application of matrix theory to accounting; the work introduced Ricco as a highly original thinker with the capacity to profoundly affect accounting theory and practice. The paper led to a Visiting Professorship at UC Berkeley, which evolved into a tenured associate professorship. In 1964, Ricco's career took off with the publication of two books demonstrating how computer technology could successfully be applied to business accounting. In 1967, Ricco was offered a position at UBC and he and Hermi settled permanently in Vancouver, walking distance from campus.
Ricco continued to publish widely and the couple traveled extensively as he presented papers around the globe and received numerous accolades for his work, including four honorary degrees from the Universities of Madrid (Complutense), Malaga, Montesquieu (Bordeaux, France), and Graz (Austria). He retired in 1988 and was granted the rank of Professor Emeritus. Following Hermi's death in 2012, Ricco remained in his home, reading and writing in his UBC office most days until age 95. His most recent paper was published in 2016, co-authored with his close friend and colleague, Prof. Dr. Giuseppe Galassi. An unexpected joy in Ricco's later years came from the many close friendships he developed with his neighbors. Ricco was a warm, engaging host, always ready to welcome visitors with old-world grace and elegance.
Ricco made many significant contributions to the field of accounting. In addition to anticipating today's familiar spreadsheets, Ricco thought deeply about the analytical methods and the theoretical and philosophical underpinnings of accounting; similarly, he was a dedicated historian of the field.
Into that hidden passage my guide and I entered, to find again the world of light, and, without thinking of a moment's rest, we climbed up, he first and I behind him, far enough to see, through a round opening, a few of those fair things the heavens bear. Then we came forth, to see again the stars.
Dante, L'inferno, XXXIV
Past recipients of the Award:
1973 Stephen A. Zeff, Rice University
1974 Michael Chatfield, Southern Oregon State College
1975 Hanns-Martin Schoenfeld, University of Illinois
1976 Osamu Kojima, Kwansei Gakuin University
1976 Basil S. Yamey, London School of Economics
1977 Antonie van Seventer, San Francisco State University
1978 David A. R. Forrester, Strathclyde University
1979 Murray Wells, University of Sydney
1980 Barbara D. Merino, University of North Texas
1980 Gary J. Previts, Case Western Reserve University
1981 H. Thomas Johnson, Portland State University
1982 Williard E. Stone, University of Florida
1983 Richard P. Brief, New York University
1984 Esteban Hernandez Esteve, Bank of Spain
1985 Edgar Jones
1986 Leonard P. Spacek, The Ohio State University
1987 M. Ernest Stevelinck
1988 Peter L. McMickle, University of Memphis
1988 Richard G. Vangermeersch, University of Rhode Island
1989 Greg Whittred, University of Auckland
1990 Anne Loft, Copenhagen Business School
1991 Philip D. Bougen, University of New Mexico
1992 Basil Yamey, London School of Economics
1993 James Don Edwards, University of Georgia
1994 John Richard Edwards, Cardiff Business School
1995 Esteban Hernandez Esteve, Bank of Spain
1996 Michael Chatfield, Southern Oregon State College
1996 Richard C. Vangermeersch, University of Rhode Island
1997 Edward N. Coffman, Virginia Commonwealth University
1998 Robert H. Parker, University of Exeter, UK
1999 Richard K. Fleischman, John Carroll University
2000 Yannick Lemarchand, Universite de Nantes
2001 Stephen A. Zeff, Rice University
2002 Dale A. Buckmaster, University of Delaware
2003 Richard V. Mattessich, University of British Columbia
2004 Lee D. Parker, University of Adelaide
2005 Stephen P. Walker, University of Edinburgh
2006 Warwick N. Funnell, University of Wollongong
2007 Salvador Carmona, University Carlos III de Madrid
2008 Geofrey H. Burrows, University of Melbourne
2009 Mahmoud A. Ezzamel, Cardiff University
2010 Thomas N. Tyson, St. John Fisher College
2011 Oktay Guvemli, Marmara University
2012 Alan J. Richardson, University of Windsor
2013 David A. McCollum-Oldroyd, Durham University
2014 Dale L. Flesher, University of Mississippi
2015 Alan Sangster, Griffith University
2016 Massimo Sargiacomo, University g.d'Annunzio of Chieti-Pescara
2017 Royce Kurtz, University of Mississippi
2018 Hiroshi Okano, Osaka City University