|William W. Cooper was born on July 23, 1914 in Birmingham, Alabama and died on June 20, 2012 in Austin, Texas. He grew up in a rough neighborhood in Chicago. After his father became ill, he had to drop out of high school to support his family, and he worked at a variety of odd jobs, including as a professional boxer. His record: 58 wins, 3 losses, and 2 draws.
Eric L. Kohler, an Arthur Andersen & Co. partner who taught accounting at Northwestern University, picked Bill up as a hitch-hiker one day on his way to another of his jobs, as a golf caddie. Kohler soon became his mentor and friend, and he loaned him the money to enter the University of Chicago. While at the university, he met his future wife, Ruth, and became friends with fellow student Herbert A. Simon. In 1938, he received an A.B. degree, majoring in economics, and he then accompanied Kohler to the Tennessee Valley Authority, where Kohler served as Comptroller. Bill assisted him by applying his analytical skills to developing the TVAâ€™s required auditing systems and procedures.
In 1940, Bill entered the Ph.D. program in business at Columbia University. After completing the coursework in two years, his research was so advanced for its day that his thesis committee could not judge, and would not approve, his thesis. As Bill later said, he â€œfought the committee to a draw.â€ In 1942, Bill again followed Kohler, this time to U.S. Bureau of the Budget to help with the war effort, where he was put in charge of all the governmentâ€™s accounting-related statistics.
After a brief return to the University of Chicago, Bill joined the Carnegie Institute of Technology (today Carnegie Mellon University) in 1946. Together with George Leland (Lee) Bach and Herbert Simon, he was one of the founding fathers of Carnegie Techâ€™s Graduate School of Industrial Administration (now the Tepper School of Business). They pioneered a scientific, interdisciplinary approach to business education, eventually with Ford Foundation support, that is now the norm in leading business schools, and their effort was a key intellectual driver in the development of CMU.
From the outset, Bill espoused the need for problem-driven research. Together with long-term collaborator Abraham Charnes, he developed important new mathematical techniques (for example, goal programming, chance-constrained programming, and data envelopment analysis) in the search of solutions to particular applied problems. Their work created a new field, called management science, and Bill was the founding president of The Institute of Management Sciences (which is now part of the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences). In 1968, he became the first dean of CMUâ€™s School of Urban and Public Affairs (now Heinz College).
From 1975 to 1980, he was the Arthur Lowes Dickinson Professor at the Harvard Business School, where he developed and supervised an improved Ph.D. program. In 1980, George Kozmetsky, the dean of the business school at the University of Texas at Austin, hired Bill as the Foster Parker Professor of Management, Finance and Accounting, thus bridging three departments. He became emeritus in 1993. Throughout his career, he advised numerous Ph.D. students, including Andrew Stedry, Andrew Whinston, and Yuji Ijiri at Carnegie Mellon, Rajiv Banker at Harvard, and Ramayya Krishna at UT-Austin.
Bill was an immensely prolific researcher, even in the last years of his life. Of his more than 545 scientific publications, 35 were in accounting and auditing. In 1981, he became the founding editor of the Auditing Sectionâ€™s new journal, Auditing: A Journal of Practice & Theory. In 1988, the Section gave him its distinguished service award. In 1985, he was one of the influential voices behind the founding of Accounting Horizons. In 1986, he served as the AAAâ€™s Distinguished International Visiting Professor in Latin America. He received the AAAâ€™s Outstanding Accounting Educator Award in 1990, and in 1995 he was inducted into the Accounting Hall of Fame.
Bill received numerous other awards for his research and academic leadership, including the esteemed John Von Neumann Theory Prize in 1982, together with Charnes and Richard Duffin.
Together with Ijiri, in 1979 Bill edited a collection of papers in honor of his mentor: Eric Louis Kohler: Accountingâ€™s Man of Principles. Also together with Ijiri, in 1983 he compiled and edited the sixth edition of Kohlerâ€™s Dictionary for Accountants.
Bill had a wide expanse of knowledge, and he could talk intelligently on any subject raised in conversation, whether in science, the arts, philosophy, sports, business, or politics. And he always made others feel as if they were on his level. He cared intensely about people and ideas, and he was always in search of ways to improve the human condition.
Until the last weeks of his life, Bill would come to the office every day to pursue his research.
His wife Ruth, a lawyer and advocate of human rights, died in 2000 after 55 years of marriage. He is survived by his brother Leon and his sister Emilie. In addition, he leaves behind numerous former students and colleagues who came to regard Bill and Ruth Cooper as their godparents.
Jonathan C. Glover, Yuji Ijiri, Stephen A. Zeff, USA
See also http://commons.aaahq.org/posts/f19383ed6c