George Staubus, campus professor emeritus of accounting, dies at 87

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George Staubus, an emeritus professor at the Haas School of Business who transformed the field of accounting, died March 21 in Oakland from bone marrow failure. He was 87.

During his time on campus, which spanned more than half a century, he developed several accounting theories, but he is best known for his “decision-usefulness” theory, which stressed the importance of cash flow-oriented business decisions. Though initially rejected by some in the 1950s, it has since become an accepted standard within the field of accounting.

“His work set the foundation for the accounting we use right now,” said Maria Nondorf, executive director of Haas Center for Financial Reporting and Management. “When companies are deciding what accounting methodology to use and how to report something, they rely on this framework.”

In 1952, Staubus joined the UC Berkeley faculty at the Haas School of Business as an assistant professor and was well regarded by his colleagues.

“He was a wise grandfather-figure that the junior faculty could turn to for advice and guidance,” Nondorf said, adding that Staubus had “a very wonderful sense of humor and was an extremely warm and gracious person.”

A man of humble beginnings, Staubus’s early education took place in “a one-room country school in northern Missouri,” he wrote in an autobiography. Staubus also described his high school education as limited in that vocational agriculture was emphasized over math.

It wasn’t until Staubus reached the University of Missouri after a year serving in the U.S. Navy that he developed an interest in accounting. He began his teaching career at the age of 21 at the University of Buffalo, where he met his wife, Sarah.

Staubus went on to earn his master’s degree and doctorate at the University of Chicago, which he largely credited for shaping his perspective of accounting and laying the groundwork for his subsequent success.

A prolific writer, Staubus had more than 70 publications in academic and professional journals. He also served as the research director of the Financial Accounting Standards Board.

He retired in 1992 but remained actively involved with the department. After winning numerous awards throughout his career, Staubus was honored by the Haas school in 2009 with the Lifetime Achievement Award for Distinguished Contributions to the Accounting Program.

Accounting professor emeritus Alan Cerf, who first met Staubus in 1955, remembered his colleague as a “serious scholar, a nice person and a good family man.”

Staubus described his career as more than research and teaching in his autobiography, writing, “All of it has been educational — for me.”

He is survived by his wife, Sarah Staubus, and their four children: Lindsay, Martin, Paul and Janette.

The date for Staubus’s memorial ceremony has not been announced, but contributions in his memory can be made to the Unitarian Universalist Church of Berkeley and the Lair of the Golden Bear.

Contact Kathleen Tierney at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @kathleentierney.