Jubilee Fellow – 2019


Emeritus Professor
Philip Brown AM FASSA FCPA

BCom (UNSW), MBA, PhD (Chicago)

Discipline: Accounting

Year Elected: 1979

2019 Reflections

It doesn’t seem that long since I became a member of the Academy, in 1978. Nonetheless I feel greatly honoured to have reached this milestone and I thank the Academy for acknowledging it.

Let me begin a few years before 1978. I enrolled in the 1950s as a part-time student in the fledgling New South Wales University of Technology, which in 1958 became the University of New South Wales (UNSW). I graduated in 1963 with first class honours in accounting and a University medal, a first for the university and it marked the start of my academic career.  In September 1963 on the advice of my academic mentor, Bill Stewart, I left my job as a Tutor in accounting at UNSW to enroll for a PhD in Accounting, Economics and Finance at the University of Chicago. I was followed to Chicago three years later by a second UNSW first class honours graduate in accounting and university medallist, Ray Ball. Ray and I teamed up shortly after his arrival and our collaboration has lasted more than 50 years. Just two months ago Ray and I received a second medal: to mark our winning the 2019 Wharton-Jacobs Levy prize for Quantitative Financial Innovation. The prize was for a paper we published in 1968 that changed in a very fundamental way the direction accounting research was taking. Two medals, one at the start of my academic career and the other at its end. Happily, I have remained “research active” in between.

Chicago PhD in hand and several publications later, my wife Edith and I decided to return to Australia. I had two jobs on offer, one a Senior Tutorship at UNSW the other a Readership at the University of Western Australia (UWA), both jobs being in accounting. Not surprisingly I chose the Readership over the Senior Tutorship. We moved to Perth in 1968, the same year as Reg Appleyard was appointed to the chair in Economic History at UWA. I was a highly inexperienced 28 year-old back then, but there were older and wiser heads in the Faculty who helped me greatly. At UWA I set about introducing the first courses in Australia in what was then known as “Modern Portfolio Theory”, and was largely responsible for building up the undergraduate honours program in accounting and finance. Another mission was to develop and gain external funding for UWA’s Master of Business Administration degree, which began in 1973. I also constructed a share market database so that I and my colleagues in other universities, to whom I gave free access, could conduct research into financial markets using the methods and techniques that had been developed at Chicago. They were busy days.

Many will remember the late Russell Mathews. In the 1960s Russell was a world leader in accounting research and very well known for his work in public finance. Russell, elected a Fellow of the Academy in 1959, had been appointed to the Interim Board of Management of a new national graduate management school which, following the Cyert Committee Report, was to be established at UNSW. Russell persuaded me towards the end of 1974 to accept a five-year term as Director (Dean) of the new school, which later became known as the Australian Graduate School of Management, or AGSM for short. My election to the Academy followed in 1978. A cloud developed over my health during my time at the AGSM so Edith and I decided to return to Perth when my term finished.

There is more to Russel’s and my relationship. Among the many things Russell did, he chaired the 1990 Review of the Accounting Discipline in Higher Education. The other two members of the review committee were Margaret Jackson, a Senior Lecturer at RMIT and myself. We reported on the accounting programs in all Australian universities and our recommendations covered funding, degree structure, teaching and research. It was a mammoth task. Even today I have yet to meet anyone who could write a comprehensive report as quickly as Russell!

As I look back on my career, I have to say “It has been a wonderful journey.” Two of my closest colleagues have been Izan, who joined the Academy in 2004, and Terry Walter, who was elected this year. Izan and Terry, and of course Ray Ball, are among the many fellow-travellers who have made my journey so fulfilling.