David F. Hawkins, HBS Professor and Australian Olympian, passes away at 86

Boston Globe, 22nd November 2020

Born on December 13, 1933 in Manly, New South Wales, Australia, David was the only son of Heather Ruby Adelia Baird and Gordon Frederick Hawkins. David attended North Sydney Boys High School, where he excelled in studies and athletics, enjoying the aquatic lifestyle of sea-side Manly.  David's much-admired grandfather, Edwin "Pal" Harrison Baird encouraged him to take his swimming talents in a competitive direction. After winning State and National titles, he was invited to train at the Palm Beach Swim Club under legendary coaches Forbes Carlile and Professor Frank Cotton, who had set up Australia's first Sports Science lab for elite athletes. 

At 16, David represented Australia at the 1950 British Empire Games, where he became the youngest Games' swimmer to win a gold medal in a breaststroke event. In 1952, he was selected to compete at the Olympic Games in Helsinki. Despite swimming the fastest breaststroke time of his career, he just missed qualifying for the final. 

David's experience in Helsinki afforded him the opportunity to pursue the larger goal in his "grand design" of furthering his education at an American university. He oft-quoted the advice given to him by a high school sports master, "David, you can't eat gold medals", in realizing that swimming was a means to other ends. David enrolled at Harvard College in 1952 and became the first freshman to hold a national title by winning two National AAU championships. At the time first-year students were technically ineligible for varsity competition, but David became the first Harvard athlete to earn four swimming letters, as the College took an unprecedented vote and awarded him a Major H as a freshman. David was also awarded the Frank Scott Gerrish Scholarship as the outstanding member of the freshmen class. David captured two more NCAA titles in butterfly events and, in 1954, earned two gold models for Australia in the British Empire and Commonwealth Games. 

In 1980, David was inducted into the Harvard Varsity Club Swimming Hall of Fame and, in 2010, was awarded an Australian Sports Medal by the Commonwealth of Australia for his swimming achievements. 

In 1956, David graduated from Harvard College with honors, and went on to the Harvard Business School, where he received an MBA degree with distinction in 1958 and was awarded a DBA in 1962. David joined the HBS faculty as an Assistant Professor in the Accounting Unit, specializing in the field of financial reporting and analysis and, in 1970, was promoted to full professor with tenure. 

David was awarded a faculty chair, becoming the fourth Lovett-Learned Professor of Business Administration. This honor was particularly meaningful for David, who had the opportunity early in his career to work with all three previous incumbents of the Lovett-Learned chair: John D. Glover, Walter F. Frese, and Richard F. Vancil. "Jack taught me case writing and course development, Walt stimulated my interest in financial reporting, and Dick got me to use numbers creatively, so all three of these men have been great mentors to me," said David. 

Over his HBS tenure, David taught introductory and advanced courses in global and domestic financial reporting and control. He authored over 200 HBS cases and teaching materials, and published numerous accounting bulletins, academic articles, and textbooks, with his seminal corporate financial reporting textbook still being widely used across universities today. As a professor, an author, a leading accounting expert, and a pioneer of the HBS case method, he influenced generations of scholars and practitioners through his global research, course development, and teaching. 

Over his dedicated 55-year career, David taught more than 25,000 students in the classroom. He was widely respected by students and faculty alike for the energy, discipline, and creativity he brought to his work. With his aphoristic wit and classroom theatrics, he leavened even the most complex course material, often through his spontaneous hurdling of chalk at the blackboard that would, often, accurately hit the point he was driving home. 

David was the Accounting Consultant at Drexel Burnham Lambert from 1972-1990 and at Merrill Lynch from 1990-2003. During this time, David was consistently named number one or number two on the Institutional Investor's All American Research Team in the accounting category. He was also a member of the Financial Accounting Standards Board Advisory Committee and several FASB Task Forces. In 1979, David met his wife Barbara, beginning what became both a beautiful life partnership and a fruitful professional one. They formed Aerion Resources Corporation and provided accounting and financial consulting to a number of major Fortune 100 companies over the next three decades. 

In 2015, David retired from the active HBS faculty as Professor Emeritus. Happiest by the water, he spent countless summers on Cape Cod with his family, where they enjoyed fishing expeditions, sailing races, and catching crabs and digging for clams. Busy days were followed by relaxed evenings on the veranda overlooking Buzzards Bay sunsets with freshly cracked oysters and a game of dominoes. David was an avid fisherman, a passion he developed through his children's shared love of the sport, and reveled in the camaraderie built among his "first mates" after a successful day on the boat. David was a member of The Country Club in Brookline, MA, where he partook in tennis and paddle, and pursued a life-long love of golf. David was also a member of the Porcellian Club at Harvard. 

David was a voracious reader, consuming multiple books a week, and developed an encyclopedic knowledge of his hero Winston Churchill and the history of modern wars. He was a dynamic story-teller regaling friends and family with tales from a life rich with experiences. David had charisma in abundance and a gentle warmth, and approached each day with gratitude and an enviable joie de vivre. 

The greatest pleasure he said he took in life was in that of having a loving family. David is survived by his beloved wife Barbara of 38 years and their two daughters, Whitney and husband Michael, and Lauren. From a previous marriage, David is survived by his children Phillip and wife Nikki; John and wife Cathy; Peter; Andrew; Katherine and husband Richard; Matthew and wife Risa; Thomas and wife Jennifer; and was predeceased by his son Richard and was a proud "Grandad" to 25 grandchildren and 5 great-grandchildren. A private Memorial Service will be held on Dec. 4, 2020.