Harvard Business School Professor William J. Bruns died at the age of 87 – News


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Professor Emeritus William John Bruns Jr., Henry R. Byers Professor of Business Administration, September 1, 2022 in Plymouth, MA. Bruns was highly regarded as a prominent scholar and teacher in accounting.

After appointments at Yale University and the University of Washington in 1969, Bruns visited Harvard Business School as an associate professor. After joining the HBS faculty, he was named the Henry R. Byers Professor of Business Administration in 1993. A member of the Department of Accounting and Management (then known as Control and then Accounting and Control), he was the author of a good Over 100 cases, notes, exercises and teaching notes, many of which are today’s bestsellers. He also wrote Accounting for Managers and the accompanying Instructor’s Manual, now in its third edition, among other books.

In a message to the HBS community, Dean Srikanth Datar said, “In everything he did, Bill held himself and others to the highest standards of kindness and compassion, bringing equal parts compassion and rigor. He was loved by his students and was a generous and caring colleague.

Bruns has taught the required financial reporting and control course in the MBA program, the Owner/President Management program and a host of concentration programs, including Strategic Finance for Small Businesses. He was known for his skillful case method of teaching and often shared those skills with other teachers in various teaching seminars. He served as Head of Controlling Department, Head of Course and Chairman of Academic Performance Committee. In addition, he was among the faculty involved in the School’s International Senior Managers Program in Vevey, Switzerland, for a number of years in the 1980s as director.

“Bill was the HBS teacher who set the benchmark for the rest of us,” said Robert Simon, Charles M. Williams Professor of Business Administration. He had an uncanny ability to stand in students’ shoes as he developed lesson plans to make complex subjects interesting and comprehensible. Not surprisingly, his subjects are popular with teachers and students alike. Bill was a generous mentor to young teachers (including me), providing feedback and suggestions to help us develop our case-writing skills and improve our classroom teaching.

“Bill was a wonderful mentor and colleague to me when I joined HBS as a junior faculty member,” says Krishna Palepu, Ross Graham Walker Professor of Business Administration. He was a brilliant scholar who cared deeply about impacting the world through research and teaching. He brought a lot of warmth and determination to the classroom. He was a very creative case writer—I still use some of his cases in my teaching. I miss him so much.

In the year Following his retirement from HBS in 2001, Bruns joined the Northeastern University faculty at the D’Amore-McKim School of Business. Bill holds degrees in Business Administration from the University of Redlands and Harvard Business School. He received his PhD from the University of California, Berkeley.

Bill is survived by his first wife, Barbara Dodge; his second wife, Sharon (Shay) McKinnon; his sons, Robert, John, David, Michael and Anastasia Catherine; five spouses; and four grandchildren.


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