Eric Press, the longtime chair of the Department of Accounting at Temple University’s Fox School of Business, had a very special leadership style. He was hands off but in the best of ways.
“He gave you the chance to both succeed and fail, and that was important,” says Steve Balsam, a professor of accounting who worked with Press for 29 years. “He was incredibly supportive of me and incredibly supportive of the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program.”
On March 10, Press passed away unexpectedly. For nearly 30 years, he served as a faculty member in the Fox School, and from 2006-2019, he chaired the Department of Accounting. He had just recently begun Temple’s Transition to Retirement and was set to complete his service at the Fox School in 2023.
Under his leadership, the Department of Accounting grew considerably, attracting both talented students and faculty members alike, and some of the department’s most significant accomplishments—including the launch of the Master of Accountancy (MAcc) degree program, the entry into the prestigious Consortium for Financial Economics and Accounting, the biennial research conference and the community-focused VITA program—happened under Press’ watch.
Press was a longtime academic and prior to joining the Fox School, he served as a faculty member at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business and the State University of New York at Buffalo. His research acumen was considerable, as his work appeared in several prestigious journals, including Journal of Accounting and Economics, Journal of Accounting and Public Policy, The Accounting Review, Contemporary Accounting Research, Review of Accounting Studies and Journal of Business Finance and Accounting.
Press received his bachelor’s degree in history and business from the University of Washington before going on to receive an MBA in Accounting and Finance from the same institution. He later received a PhD in Accounting from the University of Oregon.
Yet, despite his academic background, he had a thorough understanding of the practical applications of the accounting profession.
“Even though we came from different professional accounting backgrounds, his ability to understand things that he was not even familiar with was amazing,” says Sheri Risler, an associate professor of practice. “He was a strong leader and supporter of the accounting profession.”
While Press was immensely successful in the fields of higher education and accounting, he’s remembered most for his diverse set of interests. He knew a lot. About almost everything.
“He was an incredibly complex person,” Balsam says. “He knew so much about so many different things, and so many of those things were outside of the realm of accounting and accounting research.”
“We all learned a new vocabulary with Eric,” Risler adds. “He used a lot of different words that none of us would use typically in the day to day, which is just one example of what made him unique and fun to be around.”
Press’ unique vocabulary is also indicative of his desire to always further his education.
“As a lifelong learner, he took a class in Latin in his 60s so that he could better understand the sources of many phrases and idioms, especially important because accounting inherited many terms like debit and credit from Italian. He joined a cooperative farm because he was interested in organic farming. Eric was always finding interesting articles in The New Yorker, the Atlantic monthly, Mother Jones and many other diverse sources that he would email to his family, friends and colleagues for their continuing education,” adds Sudipta Basu, a professor of accounting and longtime colleague of Press.
He is survived by his wife, April and his children Shoshanna, Melea, Johanna, Elena as well as three grandchildren. His daughters all share his desire for wisdom.
“He prided himself on knowledge, and he ingrained that in his daughters. They’re all very successful,” Risler says. “I learned a lot from him. He was a great supporter, and he was just a true friend of mine. I had a wonderful working relationship with him, and that’s something I will always remember.”
Donations in memory of Press may be made to the Eric Press Memorial in Horsham Township. A bench will be placed in Kohler Park in his memory. He walked at least two miles there every day.
To donate, send a check to:
Ian R. Hammer MPA, CPSI
Director of Public Works
1025 Horsham Rd.
Horsham, PA 19044
**Be sure that it indicates on the check that it is for the Eric Press Memorial**
A memorial site for Press can be accessed here. Colleagues and friends are encouraged to upload photos and share memories of Press within the site.