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    Charles Thomas Horngren - 1926-2011
    memorial posted October 26, 2011 by Deirdre Harris, last edited November 1, 2011, tagged memorial 
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    Charles Thomas Horngren - 1926-2011
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    1926-2011
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    Charles T. Horngren was born in a blue collar neighborhood of Milwaukee on October 28, 1926, and he died in Palo Alto on October 23, 2011. He grew up an avid baseball fan and for a while wanted to become a major league player until reality set in. Following high school graduation, he entered the U.S. Army. In 1946, he enrolled at Marquette University, where he majored in accounting. In his junior year, he took a part-time position with the Veterans Administration to tutor homebound, disabled veterans. After graduating as class valedictorian in 1949 with a B.S. degree, he worked in public accounting. Yet he soon opted instead to teach a heavy load of accounting courses at a for-profit business college, where he discovered that he loved teaching. In 1950, he entered the M.B.A. program at Harvard Business School. There he focused on decision making by general management and developed a better appreciation of accounting as a decision-making tool.

    In 1952, the University of Chicago offered him a teaching position in accounting if he would also enroll in the Ph.D. program. At Chicago, William J. Vatter became his mentor and was a stimulating influence in broadening and deepening his interests and conceptual skills.

    After receiving his Ph.D. in only three years while teaching full-time, he taught for a year at Marquette and for three years at the new University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. In 1959, he returned to a tenured accounting position on the University of Chicago’s accounting faculty. It was an exciting time at Chicago—with colleagues Sidney Davidson, Nicholas Dopuch, David Green, and George Sorter, the founding of the Journal of Accounting Research, outstanding doctoral students (the likes of Joel Demski, William Beaver and Philip Brown), and the stimulus of the pioneering theoretical and empirical research by colleagues in finance.

    Chuck was lured to Stanford in 1966, where he remained until his retirement 30 years later. There he helped recruit Demski and Beaver and, together with Bob Jaedicke, played a major role in building the Stanford accounting faculty into one of the leading centers of research and teaching, all within a business school that was becoming a world leader under Deans Ernest Arbuckle and Arjay Miller.

    True to Vatter’s influence, Chuck made major contributions in both financial and management accounting. In the former, he wrote a number of thoughtful articles, including three with Sorter on “relevant costing.” He played key roles in helping to shape the development of private-sector standard setting by serving on the Accounting Principles Board from 1968 to 1973. Among his more influential articles were several in the 1970s and the 1980s on the efficacy of the standard-setting process. He served as a trustee of the Financial Accounting Foundation, which oversees the Financial Accounting Standards Board, from 1984 to 1989.

    As significant as his mark was on the world of financial accounting, Chuck’s biggest imprint was on management accounting. Influenced by Vatter’s path-breaking textbook, Managerial Accounting, published as a “preliminary edition” in 1950, he brought out his own Cost Accounting: A Managerial Emphasis in 1962. Almost by itself, his textbook changed the field. His objective was to demonstrate to faculty and students alike how the most important role of accounting within a company was as a management tool for making wiser decisions. Prior to the 1960s, cost accounting textbooks had placed primary emphasis on the construction of inventory cost for use in financial statements and only secondarily conceded space to the management uses of accounting. Chuck’s book soon became one of the most respected and widely used textbooks in the field, used throughout the world, and is currently in its 14th edition with coauthors Srikant Datar and Madhav Rajan.

    He was the author of several other textbooks on financial and management accounting that continue to be published with coauthors in their later editions. In addition, he wrote more than 50 articles on a wide range of accounting topics.

    Chuck was long active in the American Accounting Association, serving as its Research Director in 1965-66 and President in 1976-77. He has won numerous awards and accolades. In 1973, he received the AAA’s inaugural Outstanding Accounting Educator Award, and in 1990 he was inducted into the Accounting Hall of Fame.

    Chuck Horngren exerted leadership in a self-effacing, soft-spoken manner, with quiet dignity, but always with an unmistakable accent on the highest standard of performance coupled with a progressive spirit. He was an excellent writer and a captivating teacher.

    He and Joan, whom Chuck called his “balance wheel,” were married in September 1952. They had four children. Chuck and Joan endowed professorships at Stanford and Marquette Universities. Joan died at the age of 80 on May 3, 2010.

    --Stephen A. Zeff