9 June 2014
It is with great sadness that we have learned of the sudden and premature passing of Ted O’Leary. With this, we have lost a true scholar and a very kind man. Our thoughts are with his wife Catherine, his daughters Susan and Jill, and their partners.
Ted O’Leary was Professor of Accounting, University of Manchester, since 2001. He was also Adjunct Professor of Accounting, University of Michigan, since 2002. Prior to that, he was Associate Professor of Accounting, National University of Ireland, Cork, from 1991 to 2001, and Assistant Professor of Accountancy, University of Illinois, 1986 to 1991. Ted was a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants, Ireland, he gained an MBA from University of Dublin (Trinity College) in 1975, and a PhD from the University of Warwick in 1983. He was a visitor at London Business School, 1982-3, where he met his long-term collaborator Peter Miller.
Ted helped transform the discipline of accounting, and he did so from his unusual dual positions which straddled the Atlantic. He achieved this in part through analysing it as an organisational and social practice. But he did so also by the very high standards he brought to fieldwork. His assiduous attention to detail resulted in a number of landmark papers, in journals as diverse as Accounting, Organizations and Society, Cultural Values, the Journal of Accounting Research, Science in Context, and the Academy of Management Review.
Ted looked at accounting from both the inside and the outside. From the inside, he was genuinely interested in managers and management. He focused on how things worked and were made operational in managerial worlds, long before something called ‘practice theory’ became fashionable. Yet, as an outsider, he was also far from being merely descriptive and a slave to the categories and discourses of practice. Indeed, he paid meticulous attention to how accounting interacted with other disciplines, whether engineering, organisation design, or microelectronics, and had a keen sense of organisational and practical complexity in contrast to the usual tropes of management knowledge.
Ted will be deeply and sorely missed, by his family and close friends, and by many that will be touched by his passing. He will be missed too for the gentle persistence and collegiality he continued to bring to the academy, at a time when such values are being eroded.