This article originally appeared in Strategic Finance Magazine.
Richard Vangermeersch loves history. An accounting professor at the University of Rhode Island (URI) for 33 years (retiring in 2004), he devoted part of his long career to writing about the historical origins of several organizations and entities: his alma mater, Narragansett, accounting, and, of course, IMA®.
Richard graduated from Bryant University in 1959 with a B.S. degree in accounting. He earned his M.S. degree from URI in 1964 and his Ph.D. from the University of Florida in 1970, where he wrote a dissertation on the financial accounting history of U.S. Steel.
Although Richard spent several years working in industry as a plant accountant, he soon found his way back to Rhode Island and teaching. He joined the faculty of URI as an assistant professor of accounting in 1971 and spent the rest of his career there teaching cost accounting.
A prolific author, in 1998 he cowrote (with C.J. McNair) Total Capacity Management: Optimizing at the Operational, Tactical, and Strategic Levels. Two years earlier, he coauthored a comprehensive research resource, The History of Accounting: An International Encyclopedia. He also wrote dozens of articles published in professional accounting and regional history journals.
Among Richard’s favorite creations is a play he wrote for IMA’s 75th Anniversary. Published in June 1994 in Management Accounting magazine (predecessor of Strategic Finance), the play recounts the day in October 1919 when 37 individuals gathered in Buffalo, N.Y., to create the National Association of Cost Accountants (NACA), an accounting group specifically for cost accountants. “It was the perfect way to capture the immediacy of the moment and to describe some of the influences that prompted this group to come together and found this great organization,” Richard explains.
The play was performed by members of IMA’s Buffalo Chapter (with Richard playing Major J. Lee Nicholson, described as “fresh from his heroic war service from the Ordnance Department, author of two standard texts in our new field of cost accounting, and a lecturer at Columbia University”). It was a rousing success.
An IMA member for 50 years, Richard became a CMA® (Certified Management Accountant) 40 years ago. Back then, it was a very different exam: “Five parts, about three or four hours each, taken with pencil and paper. No computers and no immediate results,” he says. An advocate of the CMA, he always encouraged his students to become CMAs: “‘You can get a professional certification like the CMA, and you can take the test while you’re still in school,’ I would tell my students. ‘You don’t have to be a CPA—you have other options available to you.’”
Richard is currently emeritus professor of accounting at URI and previously served as manuscript director for the Providence Chapter. As for changes to the profession? “I don’t think it’s changed that much. The fundamental goals are still the same: Accounting is a tool for communicating information used to make critical business decisions.” He taught this concept well.