James Myers, the Dennis Hendrix Distinguished Professor of Accounting, recently was selected as the first faculty member to hold the Jan R. Williams Endowed Chair in Accounting Excellence in the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s Haslam College of Business.
Named for the former head of the Department of Accounting and Information Management (AIM) and dean of the college, the endowed chair was made possible by an anonymous $1 million donation and a matching sum from the Haslam family’s $40 million gift last year.
A Career of Service in Accounting and Beyond
The donor couple both graduated from UT, where they met, and one is a child of two UT graduates, so they have a particularly strong association with the Volunteer tradition. While at UT, they were impressed by Williams’ work in multiple areas. With their endowment, they desire to highlight his contributions to the college and to further the work of the accounting department. They hope their gift signals to students and faculty the department’s many achievements to date – and its future potential – and that it will encourage others to make gifts.
“We wanted to recognize Jan Williams’ impact at so many levels – students, faculty, the accounting program, the Haslam College of Business and the accounting profession at large,” they said in a statement. “He was never afraid to question the status quo when changes were needed. His insight, creativity and perseverance led to so many changes, big and small.”
Williams joined UT as a professor in 1977. During his time at the college, he served as head of the AIM department and associate dean before becoming acting dean in 2000 and dean in July 2001, a role in which he remained until his retirement in 2013. In 2018, the American Accounting Association (AAA) honored Williams as its Outstanding Accounting Educator, the highest such award the organization bestows. The AAA recognized Williams for his range of contributions in teaching, research and the profession. His achievements include authoring and co-authoring more than 125 articles, books, research monographs and other publications on issues of corporate financial reporting and accounting and business education; being AAA’s president, chair of the board of the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business International and national president of Beta Alpha Psi. After retiring to Nashville, he became affiliated with Belmont University, where he served as interim dean of the Massey College of Business in 2019-20. He continues to serve on the AIM department’s advisory board.
“For an accounting alum to make this level of commitment is a wonderful testament to the quality of the accounting and business education the donor received at UT,” Williams says. “It also supports continued high-quality education by attracting and retaining outstanding accounting faculty. Having my name associated with this endowed chair is an incredible honor, and I am grateful to the donor, as well as the faculty I was fortunate to have served with for 36 years. In retirement, I continue to be active and look forward to representing and supporting UT accounting and business education as opportunities arise.”
James Myers currently teaches an introductory financial accounting course. In it, Myers uses information he developed on data analytics and accessing/interpreting financial statements to emphasize to young undergrads accounting’s continuing relevance and dynamic nature.
His research includes examining the relation between financial statement numbers and firm value and the efficient prediction of future earnings, including the study of systematic errors that investors and financial analysts make, and how incentives influence managers’ accounting choices.
Myers says he is honored to be chosen as the first recipient of the Dr. Jan R. Williams Endowed Chair in Accounting Excellence. “Jan Williams has been a major influence on accounting education for almost 50 years, much of which has been in service to our department and college,” he says. “This generous funding will support my teaching and enhance my research while also advancing the AIM department’s work."
Terry Neal, department head and Richard L. Townsend Chaired Professor of Accounting, noted that the endowed chair was a testament to Williams’ continuing contributions to the department and beyond.
“Jan Williams left a lasting legacy on the college and made a significant impact on the accounting profession,” Neal says. “This newly established chair is a fitting recognition of that impact. We are grateful for the generosity of the anonymous donor, who wants others to know how deeply Jan’s work influenced the donor’s career and wanted to honor his tireless efforts to make AIM, the college and the university better.”
Neal says the endowment will be instrumental in the department’s continuing success. “It will enhance our ability to recruit and retain top-ranked faculty and ensure that Jan’s legacy of strengthening our programs will endure.”
“Jan Williams is very deserving of this extraordinary tribute,” Stephen L. Mangum, dean of the college and Stokely Foundation Leadership Chair, says. “Jan served as dean of the college for the better part of 15 years. During this time, the college saw significant growth in its undergraduate student body that continues to this day, experienced tremendous growth in its executive education operations, broadened its revenue sources and advanced the reputation of a number of academic departments. Also, through his guiding vision, the college moved into the splendid James A. Haslam II Business Building. Jan continued to teach during much of his time as dean, and students held him in high esteem for his deep knowledge of his core discipline of accounting. Throughout Jan’s career, he successfully impacted both the academy and the profession, building important bridges between the two.”
The endowment is the latest in a series of positive developments for the AIM department. Earlier in the year, the department announced its first endowed chair, the Richard L. Townsend Accounting Chair. In the U.S. News & World Report 2021 Best Undergraduate Accounting Programs overview, the department ranked No. 28 among public schools. Also, it scored well in several areas in Brigham Young University’s 2020 research rankings of accounting programs. The department tied for No. 6 worldwide in archival audit research and placed No. 20 worldwide in archival accounting research, the largest sector of accounting research. The college’s Ph.D. program ranked No. 15 in archival research and No. 3 in audit research, based on the research productivity of its graduates.
Scott McNutt, business writer/publicist, firstname.lastname@example.org