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    William Wager Cooper 1914-2012
    memorial posted June 25, 2012 by Deirdre Harris, last edited September 30, 2013, tagged 2012, memorial 
    1694 Views, 1 Comment
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    William Wager Cooper 1914-2012
    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 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 TVA’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 “fought the committee to a draw.”  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 government’s accounting-related statistics.   
    In May 1944, he met Ruth, his future wife, in Washington, DC.
    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 Tech’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 CMU’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 Section’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 AAA’s Distinguished International Visiting Professor in Latin America. He received the AAA’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: Accounting’s Man of Principles. Also together with Ijiri, in 1983 he compiled and edited the sixth edition of Kohler’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



    • Robert E Jensen

      Bill Cooper ---
      Message from Bob Jensen on February 12, 2018

      Hi Jagdish,

      Thanks for the update.

      Interestingly, Bill Cooper was an accounting Ph.D. student at Columbia who encountered great troubles with an advisor at the dissertation stage. It was then that he commenced a new Ph.D. quest in Operations Research (OR) at Carnegie. Bill Cooper ultimately became a world-leading OR researcher, scholar, teacher, and author.

      I became rather close with Bill Cooper when we served on the AAA Executive Committee together and corresponded somewhat regularly thereafter. Bill became a towering figure in OR research and application who always had an interest in problems of the real world. Exhibit A is the significant role he played in the breakup of the AT&T monopoly.

      Bill was a high school drop out and a promising professional boxer --- 

      Accounting Hall of Famer and very long-time (practitioner) Accounting Review editor (1928-1942) Eric Kohler  turned young Cooper's life around and persuaded Bill to return to schooling. Kohler also hired Bill as his accounting assistant and played a huge role in Bill's academic future. 

      Eric Kohler's Accounting Hall of Fame Citation --- 

      Perhaps it was out of the respect and admiration for the super accounting practitioner (Kohler) that eventually led Bill to devote so much of his own long life to service in the American Accounting Association even though Bill Cooper's renowned reputation was in mathematics, economics, and operations research.

      Bill Cooper was not a fan of the way accountics science took over the AAA in the 1970s and drove away the accounting practitioners from the AAA. This also did not please Bill's student Yuji Ijiri even though Yuji's academic contributions to accounting practice are not noteworthy due to his assuming away a lot of the hard stuff in the real world.

      Thanks for filling in some of the blanks about your own life Jagdish even though I think I'm more respectful of the importance of also being a super accountant like Eric Kohler who devoted so much of his own life to accounting research and the turning around of Bill Cooper.

      Bill was well aware of the limitations of his own mathematical models that could not overcome the classical problem of not being able to overcome unrealistic underlying assumptions about the real world.Bob

      Joel Demski's undergraduate was in industrial engineering. I think this was a reason for Joel's long-time fascination with cost accounting and his close working relationship with Chuck Horngren (who was not into mathematics and analytics). Chuck Horngren was the super accountant who inspired Joel Demski much like Eric Kohler was the super accountant who inspired Bill Cooper.

       Bob Jensen