Jubilee Fellow – 2017

Ken Wright

Emeritus Professor Ken Wright

BMetE, DCom (Melbourne), FCPA

Discipline: Accounting

Year Elected: 1977

2017 Reflections

Ken Wright arrived in Melbourne with his mother as a refugee from Vienna in 1939 at the tender age of fourteen. Matriculating into the University of Melbourne in 1942 he commenced studies in Metallurgical Engineering but quickly supplemented them with non-cognate studies in Commerce. Degrees in both disciplines were earned each of which underpinned his long working life.

Employment as a metallurgist, management consultant and works accountant preceded his academic career which started at the University of Adelaide in 1962 where he held various senior posts as head of department and dean of faculty.  Ken Wright moved, in 1977, to The University of Melbourne where he was the inaugural appointment to the newly established Fitzgerald Chair in Accounting. Visiting professorships included the universities of Vienna, Lancaster and Miami. In 1986 Ken was rewarded with the first earned Doctor of Commerce in The University of Melbourne for a collection of seventeen works on the general theme of Asset Values and Enterprise Income.

Throughout his time in academia, Ken Wright was a steady contributor to intellectual debate. As an accounting theorist, he was one of a handful of Australians in the 1960s and early 1970s who caused the international community to sit up and take notice of Australian accounting academics. Along with distinguished contemporaries he published extensively through what is now seen as something of a “golden age” of Australian accounting literature. A small group of Australians authored a disproportionally high page-count in the world’s leading accounting journals due in no small measure to their grounding in economics. Ken Wright’s contribution to this effort was outstanding. His publication record in top tier journals ranks amongst the best achieved with five articles in the Journal of Accounting Research, four in The Accounting Review and three in the Journal of Business, Finance and Accounting. His publication list extends beyond eighty items.

Ken gained an international reputation for his work in the areas of depreciation, capital investment, financial management and the bases of valuation of assets. Much of this work had implications for the management of public sector enterprises as well as private sector commercial activities. Consulting advice was sought by the Queensland Cane Growers Council and the Victorian Government.

His outstanding contribution to the advancement of accounting was rewarded in 1977 when he was elected as a Fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia. He is also a Life Fellow of CPA Australia and on retirement from The University of Melbourne was awarded the title Professor Emeritus. In 2014, the Australian Accounting Hall of Fame recognised Ken as a theorist and scholar of the highest order.