Professor David Hawkin

Reproduced from FALCONIA—ISSUE 67

Professor David Hawkins passed away in November 2020 at his home in Boston, USA,  aged 86. David competed in the Empire Games in 1950 and 1954 (Vancouver) and at the Olympics in Helsinki in 1952. The press began to notice David after the 1949 NSW and national swimming titles. He was also part of the Carlile swimming group from the Palm Beach club and trained at Manly Dam, which was not generally used for swimming training. The distance from the headwater to the dam wall was about one mile and with Forbes wanting the squad to swim long distances of up to ten miles a day, the dam was perfect. Forbes' logic for the swimmers was that they had to swim only ten laps of the dam as against many laps of a 50-metre pool. Some swimmers were put off by the giant eels in the dam but accepted them against the possible shark attacks if swimming in the ocean.

At his first major event, the Empire Games trials, David was engulfed in a swimsuit controversy when he was ordered by swimming officials to wear a new pair of trunks for the final of the 220 yards breaststroke. David had borrowed a pair of fine silk trunks from his friend Neville Adams who had recently returned from the USA. Neville had experienced no problems racing in silk trunks in America but the referee declared the trunks to be 'indecent'. He saw nothing unusual before the heat, but when David emerged from the water after winning in State record time, the referee noticed the trunks were too tight and transparent. David needed to borrow another pair of trunks before competing in the final, in which he was again successful. At just 16 years of age, David was selected for the 1950 Auckland Games.

Controversy followed again when he was involvedin the "£20 row", where parents of members of the team had to pay £20 to fund their son’s and daughter’s flight to New Zealand. Forbes Carlile was concerned over the stream of threatening letters sent to parents, demanding the £20. He said that officials warned him that if he did not keep quiet about the £20 that Empire Games swimmers had to pay for their trip, he would not be selected again as Australian coach. Not unduly worried by the threat, Carlile stated that he would move at the next meeting of the N.S.W.A.S.A. that the parents of Ron Sharpe and David Hawkins be reimbursed for the £20 they had contributed towards the trip. Funding of international sport was always a concern and controversial in the 1940s and 1950s.

Winning the Australian titles in 1951 and 1952 and success at the 1951 Canterbury Centennial Games in Christchurch (won the 110 yards breaststroke, second behind Ron Sharpe in the 220 yards) resulted in David being selected in the 1952 Olympic team. The competition was strong and he missed a place in the final, although his semi-final time would have placed him fifth in the final, won by John Davies for Australia. After the Olympics, David headed to Harvard University to enrol in a Bachelor of Arts degree.

In 1953, he won the US indoor 100 yards national breaststroke and 220 yards outdoor breaststroke championships. By the end of that year, he was ranked number one worldwide for these two events. In the following year, David again won the American indoor 100-yard breaststroke championship and again was ranked number one.He also won the American Intercollegiate 100 yards breaststroke and 200 yards breaststroke championships. Many considered collegiate events to be the more prestigious that the Amateur Athletic National events.

During the northern hemisphere school vacation in 1954, David represented Australia at the Empire Games held in Vancouver, Canada. He won gold medals in the 4×220 yards freestyle relay and the 3×110 yard medley relay and finished fourth in the 220 yards breaststroke final. Over his time at Harvard, David continued to swim, even forming the Harvard Swim Club so he could compete as a first-year student. At that time, only second-year students could represent at intervarsity competitions. Under the guise of being a member of the Harvard Swim Club, David won two national championships in the 100 and 200 yards breaststroke, giving him number one world rankings. His sporting achievements earned David an Australian Sports Medal in 2010.

To finance his time in Harvard, David was a 'pantry man', cooking breakfast for the residents of Adams House and cleaning houses around the campus. He lived in the cheapest housing on the campus on the fifth floor (no lift). He eventually won the Frank Scott Garrish Award for the most outstanding first- year student, a bursary of $1,000 per year. His B.A. degree was awarded in 1956, followed in 1958 by a Master of Business Administration (with distinction) degree from the Harvard Graduate School. He returned to Australia to work as Company Secretary for Australian Carbon Black, the first carbon black plant in Australia, however the lure of academia proved too strong and he returned to Harvard in 1960.

In 1962, David was awarded a Doctorate in Business Administration and joined the faculty as an Assistant Professor. He had well listened to legendary NSBHS sports master, Arthur Henry, who told David after his 1950 Auckland success that, "You can't eat gold medals." Subsequently, in 1970, he was promoted to full professor with tenure and in 2015 became the Lovett-Learned Professor of Business Administration, Emeritus, at Harvard Business School. David held research and teaching roles at Harvard for an impressive 55 years, specialising in Financial Reporting and Control studies in Accounting and Finance, retiring in 2015.

David was a leading accounting expert in the field of corporate finance, authoring 16 books and monographs, including his classic introduction to the field, Accounting: Texts and Cases (with Robert N. Anthony and Kenneth Merchant). The book covers both financial and managerial accounting, as well as broader managerial issues. The 13th edition was published in 2010. In 1972, Financial Reporting Practices of Corporations was published, a seminal work that gave both managers involved in the process of setting their company’s accounting policy and users of financial statements (e.g. bankers, investors) an understanding of company financial reporting practices.

David also published countless articles and bulletins and more than 200 cases and teaching materials over the course of his career. His research was recognised during his career with the Newcomen Society Award, the California Management Review's McKinsey Award and the Financial Analysts Journal Graham & Dodd Scroll.

Happiest by the water, he spent countless summers on Cape Cod with his family, where they enjoyed fishing expeditions, sailing races, catching crabs and digging for clams. Busy days were followed by relaxed evenings on the veranda overlooking 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. He was a voracious reader, consuming multiple books a week, developing an encyclopaedic 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.

The greatest pleasure he took in life was in that of having a loving family. He raised ten children over two marriages and was a proud "Grandad" to 25 grandchildren and 5 great- grandchildren. In 2008, in a piece for Falconia, David noted “I frequently ask myself: Why did I leave Australia? I’m still convinced it’s the most wonderful place in the world to live. I must admit this question is raised more often during the cold Boston winters when I read of 30-degree temperatures in Sydney, which conjure up wonderful memories of the hours I spent surfing at Manly Beach.”