It is with great sadness that IMA® announces the passing of Curtis C. Verschoor, who died peacefully on January 17, 2019, at the age of 87. Curt was a giant in the field of ethics and the author of a monthly ethics column in this magazine for 20 years (his first column appeared in 1999). He wrote more than 250 journal articles and columns, including for Strategic Finance, on subjects ranging from whistleblowing and executive compensation to sustainability and case studies involving a diverse range of organizations and situations.
A prolific speaker and writer, Curt authored 12 books, including Audit Committee Essentials and Ethics and Compliance: Challenges for Internal Auditing. In 2017, IMA published Curt Verschoor On Ethics, a collection of his Strategic Finance columns that provide real-world insights on key business ethics topics. Curt maintained an unwavering work ethic until the end of his life, still writing columns and even considering getting his CSCA® (Certified in Strategy and Competitive Analysis) credential.
IMA was fortunate to have Curt as a leader and member since 1973, the same year that he earned his CMA® (Certified Management Accountant) certification. Curt’s emergence as an ethics expert was shaped by his academic work: For more than four decades, he served as a professor at DePaul University, where he was the Emeritus Ledger & Quill Research Professor in the School of Accountancy and Management Information Systems since 1994 and, later, honorary Senior Wicklander Research Fellow at the Institute for Business and Professional Ethics. Before joining DePaul in 1974, Curt worked in industry and public accounting, earning his BBA and MBA from the University of Michigan and his Ed.D. from Northern Illinois University. In addition to being a CMA, Curt was also a CPA, CIA, and CFE.
Curt was known throughout IMA and the profession as “Mr. Ethics.” Not only did he write his monthly ethics column, but he also served as chair-emeritus of the IMA Committee on Ethics. In that role, he lent his expert insights to the committee’s work, including its development and later revision of the IMA Statement of Ethical Professional Practice.
“It’s in large part thanks to Curt that ethics is such a pillar of IMA’s mission statement,” noted Susan E. Bos, who has served many years on the Committee on Ethics, including a term as chair, and who considered Curt a dear friend and mentor.
“Curt is without a doubt the person who most influenced my passion for ethics,” Sue said. “He had the ability to show how ethics permeates every aspect of life. He also helped to make ethics relevant, moving it from beyond a set of abstract principles into something that was alive. Because while everyone may agree about what is illegal, what is unethical isn’t always easily understood.”
Curt’s role as a champion of ethical behavior was appreciated by both his peers and the profession. For many years, he was recognized as one of the Top Thought Leaders in Trust by Trust Across America-Trust Around the World. In 2016, Curt earned that organization’s highest distinction: He received a Lifetime Achievement Award for his leadership in trustworthy business practices.
AN OPPORTUNITY TO BE BETTER
Bud Kulesza, who also knew Curt well over the years, appreciated the many ways that Curt shaped the ethics dialogue at IMA. Bud, a longtime volunteer leader and former IMA Chair, acknowledged that IMA has always had a strong commitment to ethics, dating back to the organization’s founding in 1919, but that Curt provided an added degree of “gravitas.”
“He was an academic who was a leading expert in this field, and he chose to be our resident ethics guru,” Bud noted.
Bud recalled that his own work was shaped by Curt’s writings, particularly those that discussed how the pursuit of proper ethical behavior not only benefits individuals but their organization as well. Curt’s seminal research on that topic, “A Study of the Link Between a Corporation’s Financial Performance and its Commitment to Ethics,” was published in 1998 in the Journal of Business Ethics.
Discussing this point in an interview with a DePaul University publication, Curt said recently, “In all my research, I’ve found that organizations with a strong ethical culture are more successful than those that have a weak organizational culture. Companies with ethical cultures avoid reputational damage that comes from unethical practices and are usually better off financially. A strong ethical culture is a keystone or underlying core value of a well-managed, well-organized entity.”
Despite his firm grasp on the topic, Curt never discussed ethics in a condescending way, according to Bud. “Curt never made you feel that he was better than you. He saw it as his role to point out opportunities to be ethical. He reminded us all that we can be much better than we are.”
Curt is survived by his wife of 66 years, Marie, as well as four children, 12 grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.
The Strategic Finance editors and team are proud to have had the opportunity to work with Curt for so many years, and we are honored to have been able to provide Curt with a platform for sharing his voice with the world. His unwavering passion for ethics in business as well as for IMA showed through every month in this space. His contributions to the magazine can’t be overstated, and he will be sorely missed.
COLLEAGUES REFLECT ON CURT'S LEGACY
“Curt was an exceptional person, not only in his knowledge of the overall business environment, but also in his keen insights and understanding of ethics. As a member of the Committee on Ethics, it was a pleasure to serve with him on this committee and learn from his insightful perspectives on ethical situations. Curt will be greatly missed as ‘Mr. Ethics’ for IMA, as a colleague, and as a friend.”—Robert C. Krogh, independent management consulting professional and member of the IMA Committee on Ethics
“It was a great honor to know Curt and to be his colleague at DePaul University for many years. His thought leadership in ethics was inspiring and had a very positive impact. He will be missed.”—Mark L. Frigo, Ezerski Endowed Chair, School of Accountancy, DePaul University
“I admired Curt because he continued to work so diligently and well past retirement and, as it turns out, right up to the end of his life. I always enjoyed reading his writings. He was a great role model for all of us in academia.”—Kenneth A. Merchant, Deloitte & Touche LLP Chair of Accountancy, University of Southern California
“I greatly admired Curt’s insights on professional ethics. Each essay he wrote was interesting, instructive, and stimulating. He will indeed be remembered for his lasting contribution to our profession.”—Belverd E. Needles, Jr., EY Distinguished Professor of Accounting, School of Accountancy and MIS, DePaul University; editor of Curt Verschoor On Ethics
“IMA was fortunate to have benefitted from Curt’s many valuable contributions over the years. The insights he shared in his hundreds of columns provided guidance and a helpful perspective to so many members on the important topic of ethics. He leaves behind a lasting legacy both to our association and the profession.”—Ginger R. White, IMA Chair