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Prominent accounting scholar Herbert Miller dies

 

By January 8, 2013
Ken Tysiac

Herbert E. Miller, who was a prominent academic and co-author of a popular accounting textbook series, died Dec. 21 in Athens, Ga., after a long illness. He was 98.

During a long and well-rounded career, Miller taught for more than 30 years at the university level, partnered with Harry Finney on the three-volume Principles of Accounting textbook series from 1951 to 1965, and served as a standard setter and an Arthur Andersen partner.

He crusaded for the establishment of schools of accountancy at the university level. After leaving Arthur Andersen when he reached the firm’s mandatory retirement age, he became the first director of the J.M. Tull School of Accounting at the University of Georgia in 1978, serving five years before retiring.

James Don Edwards, a prominent educator and former Financial Accounting Foundation trustee who was a longtime colleague and friend of Miller, said Miller was respected by leaders in public accounting, business and industry, and academia.

“He was held with such great dignity and respect, and when he spoke, the community listened to him,” Edwards said. “He did not speak too often. He spoke when it was something of substance and an issue about which he felt passionate. He felt passionately about the development of a conceptual framework from which accounting standards can be established and about schools of accounting. He thought accounting was a learned profession.”

Miller grew up in the small town of DeWitt, Iowa, and received the AICPA’s Elijah Watt Sells gold medal for posting the highest score on the CPA exam in May 1945. He served as an accounting educator from 1937 to 1970 on the faculties of schools including the University of Minnesota, University of Michigan, and Michigan State University.

He was president of the American Accounting Association in 1965–66, and chaired that organization’s Committee on the Revision of the Statement of Accounting Principles. He was a member of the AICPA’s council from 1966 to 1969 and its board of directors from 1967 to 1970.

Miller received the AICPA’s gold medal for distinguished service in 1981 and was inducted the following year into the Accounting Hall of Fame at Ohio State University.

“He always did his research carefully,” said Rice University Professor of Accounting Stephen Zeff, whose doctoral thesis Miller helped supervise. “He was a very good writer. He was a clear and rigorous thinker. He was not one to vaunt his achievements. He was a very humble person. When you met him, you never got any idea that he had the record of achievement like he had.”

According to Zeff, Miller was the last living member of the AICPA’s Committee on Accounting Procedure (CAP), which was effectively the first private-sector accounting standard-setting body authorized by the SEC. Miller later served on the Accounting Principles Board, which assumed CAP’s standard-setting role, from 1959 to 1963.

Miller was perhaps best known to accounting students in the 1950s and 1960s for the Principles of Accounting textbooks. The “Finney and Miller” series, as it was called, was published as three-volume sets with introductory, intermediate, and advanced texts. It became one of the most popular series of its kind.

His wife, Mary Lenore Snitkey Miller, died June 11, 2011. They leave one daughter.

“He was a gentleman and a scholar,” Edwards said. “He was a man of integrity, a man of commitment to the accounting profession.”

—Ken Tysiac (ktysiac@aicpa.org) is a JofA senior editor.

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