what he loved. In this respect, I also think your

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I am honored and pleased to be here today to accept this award on behalf of
my father. I know that he would have been honored too, if not necessarily
pleased to have been here to accept the award himself. I say honored but not
pleased because had he received this award during his lifetime, it would
have been a clear indicator that he was getting old and grey, a condition that
he refused, rather successfully we have to admit, to ever accept as one that
would ever afflict him. My father departed the earth suddenly while still
immersed 110% in the vigorous and vital life that he created for himself.
And while his sudden death was certainly a shocking loss for us all, we have
come to see in retrospect that it was the only way for him to end his life
happily. He was never going to grow old gracefully, and despite a few years
of trying to create a leisurely golf-centered retirement for himself, he quickly
learned that such routines only made him miserable. He thus threw himself
back into the work that sustained his passions, and died in full life doing
                                                                                2


what he loved. In this respect, I also think your association, however
unwittingly, has handled things wonderfully in awarding your lifetime
achievement to my father posthumously. He would have been deeply, deeply
honored to have been recognized this way, for I know that this profession
meant a great deal to him and that he was eager to leave a legacy within it.
Accordingly, by recognizing him now, rather than during his lifetime, you
have bestowed this recognition upon him while allowing him to avoid what
would have been an unpleasant confrontation with his own mortality.
      John Shank, my father, certainly cared deeply about accounting, yet as
a son who did not follow his father into his chosen profession I never fully
came to understand what accounting was for him, or how he could become
so passionate about what, for me in my ignorance, appeared to be the very
antithesis of an intellectually exciting and dynamic pursuit. My father and I
found common ground in our parallel pursuit of a career in the academy, and
when accounting presented itself to me as just one more academic field with
its faculties, and doctoral students, and journals, and annual meetings, and
curricula, and deans, and "publish or perish" imperatives we could and did
share a mutual understanding rooted in our shared position within the
modern American multiversity. My father used to enjoy dialoging with me
as one professor to another, yet in all honesty there was as much that
separated us as joined us in our oft noted status as the two "academics" in
the Shank family. I, for example, hold a doctor of philosophy degree in
European history and humanities, and since my chosen focus is the history
of European philosophy and science it is pretty easy for me to explain to
someone what the philosophy is that I am certified doctor of. What it means
to be a doctor of philosophy in accounting, however, has never been clear to
me at all. Is accounting not simply putting costs on one side and revenues on
                                                                                  3


the other and making sure that the numbers balance? When the Enron
scandal was big news, I glimpsed one readily comprehensible image of "the
philosophy of accounting," but my father always insisted that there were
others, including many that were not incompatible with the auditing
practices preferred by the United States Securities and Exchange
Commission. He even suggested that accounting was a richly conceptual and
even philosophical activity and a site of fascinating intellectual activity
today.
         The passion in his voice and the sparkle in his eyes as he would utter
these claims always convinced me that he really believed what he was
saying. But I will confess to never really understanding, or even seeing, this
world of accounting, the one that my father devoted his very large fount of
energy and razor sharp intellect to for over forty years. So, yes, my father
and I were both professors and academics who pursued the life of the mind
as a profession. Yet while we could agree on that self-description, I at least
had a hard time seeing how his world was anything like mine. One of his
colleagues, Vijay Gavindarajan, in fact articulated with crystal clarity one
night the gap that separates professors like me from those who profess
accounting when, in an after dinner conversation lubricated with cigars and
cognac -- the first was a habit of my father's that I have fortunately not
inherited, while the second was a gift that I will forever be grateful that he
shared with me -- Vijay asked me with great sincerity and a genuine desire
to know how it is that historians of old periods find anything new to work
on. "Hasn't it all already been figured out by now," he asked sincerely. "I
mean, what's left to do?" Vijay's complete incomprehension about what my
world as a historian was all about confirmed for me the reality of the gap
                                                                                4


that made me just as incomprehending of what it was that academic
accountants do.
      My father and I never erased this gap during his lifetime. He went to
his grave still discoursing passionately with me about the fascinating world
of accounting, and I went to his funeral still unable to relate to the
intellectual vision that sustained his passion. Then about six months ago, as
if prompted by the same academic gods that led your society to honor my
father with your lifetime achievement award, I was pointed to a bridge that
has helped me to traverse this once impassable chasm.




The man depicted in this sixteenth-century painting is that bridge: Fratello
(or Brother) Luca Pacioli, a late fifteenth century Italian Domincan monk
and mathematician who is known to many as the "Father of Accounting."
Pacioli owns this title because he is said to be the inventor of double-entry
bookkeeping. My father knew all about Pacioli and he mentioned him to me
many times. In his mind, historians like me should be studying people like
                                                                                5


Pacioli, yet given what I have said so far you can imagine my enthusiasm for
a historical project centered on the founding father of double entry book-
keeping. My Father's enthusiasm about Pacioli, however, was unfailing.
Diane tells of a trip to Bologna, Pacioli's home town, where my father
bubbled with enthusiasm during walks through the city as he repeated
"Pacioli lived here, Pacioli lived here!" I may be wrong, but I am also pretty
sure that Pacioli made more than one appearance in my father's published
scholarly writing and he was also a featured character in some of his justly
famous classroom orations. What little Italian Renaissance history my father
knew was also typically connected to Pacioli, and the last time I saw him
alive in November 2005 it was in Italy near to Pacioli's home.




I was residing in Florence pursuing a research leave as a visiting scholar at
the Institute and Museum of the History of Science and he and Diane came
to visit us. I was starting my current research project, centered around
Galileo and his followers in the seventeenth century, and I know my father
asked me about Pacioli during that visit, asking about his connection to the
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