Scholarship Honors Professor

For Tom Sleeman (BS Accountancy '54), one of the best experiences of his undergraduate life was one that didn't take place in the classroom.


Tom Sleeman
It was the time that he spent on the board of directors of the Illini Publishing Company — two years, during which he got to work with one of the most influential accounting scholars of that era. What Sleeman carried away from his service on behalf of the little Champaign media outfit — now the Illini Media Company and still publisher of the Daily Illini and the Illio — has remained so important to him, in fact, that he recently endowed a scholarship in honor of that esteemed professor. The Robert K. Mautz Honorary Scholarship has been established in the College of Commerce to benefit accountancy students; selection will be based upon their academic performance and proven leadership or leadership potential through participation in extracurricular activities.

"One of the best educational and developmental experiences I had at the university was serving with Professor Mautz on the board of the Illini Publishing Company," Sleeman observed, in a recent telephone interview from his home in La Canada, California. As for Mautz, this is one more honor on the impressive list he has compiled over a lifetime of distinguished service to the academic community and the accounting industry. 

A native of Chicago, Sleeman says he was drawn to Illinois because, "It was the state university. I just always assumed I would go there. And my whole experience was excellent. I enjoyed being involved in student activities. The academic experience was great. In fact, I enjoyed almost every minute I was there." In 1953, at the beginning of senior year, he married his high school sweetheart, June Netzel. Also a University of Illinois senior, she was a journalism major and worked for the Daily Illini. "Being married probably made it easier to stay home and study," Sleeman observed. Three years ago, the couple created The Joe Sutton Honorary Scholarship in Print Journalism in the College of Communications, in honor of Sutton, a journalism professor who also served on that extraordinary Illini Publishing board. June Netzel Sleeman died on April 7, 1999.

"When my wife and I started to think about how we would like to contribute to the university, our thoughts naturally turned to Bob Mautz and Joe Sutton, whom we both remembered as great teachers and friends," Sleeman recalled. For, as well as working with Mautz on the Illini Publishing Company board, Sleeman took an accountancy class from him. "I learned so much from him about how business works — but then, he co-wrote the textbook." (Functional Accounting, written with Mautz's fellow faculty member and good friend C.A. Moyer.) "I think I still have that textbook around the house somewhere."

After graduation, Sleeman went to work as an accounting trainee with the Pure Oil Company in Chicago — a first job that grew into a forty-year career leading to the position of senior vice president and chief financial officer of Unocal. "In 1965, we merged with Union Oil, which was headquartered in L.A.," Sleeman explained.

A year later Tom and June moved from the Windy City to the West Coast, settling in La Canada with their sons Michael, Kevin, Dan, and Gary. June worked part-time as a writer, including a stint as society editor for the La Canada Valley Sun.

Sleeman became vice president of corporate planning for Unocal in 1975, and five years later was made president of Molycorp Inc., a Unocal mining subsidiary. "I helped the company acquire it," he recalled. "Then I got to run it." In 1985, he became president of Unocal Chemicals one of the corporation's major divisions and was also made a corporate senior vice president and director. "Five years later I was made CFO. And four years after that I retired." He continues to be active in an array of service organizations, including the Executive Service Corps, a group which provides pro bono management consulting assistance to non-profit organizations and social services agencies in greater Los Angeles. Clients with whom he has worked include the Los Angeles Free Clinic, Solheim Lutheran Homes for the Aging, the International Institute of Los Angeles, and the California Youth Theatre. He is a volunteer at the Heritage Square Museum, a collection of restored Victorian homes near downtown L.A. He's on the board for the local Tournament of Roses Association. He is an active member of the Kiwanis Club. And he remains a loyal Illini.

"I'm glad to be able to do something for the university to give back as much as I can," Sleeman concluded. "And I'm especially glad to do it in the name of people like Bob Mautz and Joe Sutton. Bob provided me with the best part of the very fine education that I got at the University of Illinois, an education that helped ensure my further success."


Profile: Robert K. Mautz

In the world of accountancy, Bob Mautz is one of those rare people who has purposefully combined a strong theoretical background with extensive experience in professional practice, both as a partner in a major firm and as a member of the profession's Public Oversight Board. He thus brings to his substantial body of writing a breadth of experience few can match.

"Bob is the pioneering philosopher of the auditing discipline," remarked Fred Neumann, CBA's associate dean for academic affairs and a long-time colleague. "Combine that with a masterful instructional style and you will learn why he was a consummate teacher and was commissioned by virtually every major accounting and auditing group in the country to do a seminal study of some aspect of their activity. His careful investigations, insightful perceptions, and logical developments have enlightened students and professionals alike for several decades."

His 1961 work, The Philosophy of Auditing, written with Hussein A. Sharaf, and now in its seventeenth printing, remains an enduring classic, while Fundamentals of Auditing, published in 1954, has been recognized as a deceptively simple and straightforward presentation of the purpose and practice of auditing. And these are but two volumes in a small library of textbooks and scholarly monographs authored by the esteemed professor, an alumnus who served on the CBA faculty from 1948 to 1972.

"One of the best educational and developmental experiences I had at the university was serving with Professor Mautz on the board of the Illini Publishing Company," said Tom Sleeman (BS Accountancy '54), who recently created the Robert K. Mautz Honorary Scholarship in the College of Commerce. 

"Tom was highly focused on learning as much as possible from every activity he undertook," responded Mautz. "Teachers delight in students like Tom and are only too happy to accept credit for their success, whether due to the teacher or not. But there is no question in my mind: Tom would have made it big wherever he went to school and whomever he had as teachers. Sooner or later drive and talent like his make themselves known."

The same is true in the case of Mautz himself, of course. Born in Ontario, Canada, in 1915, he was the seventh child of Illinois natives William and Caroline Kuhn Mautz. The family returned to the United States before he was a year old, settling first in East Grand Forks, Minnesota, and later Grand Forks, North Dakota. As a youth, Mautz attended local schools and, later, the University of North Dakota, located in Grand Forks. He made an early decision, which he has never regretted, to study accounting. "The country was still in the Great Depression," he recalled. "My interest was in getting a job, and a business background looked like the best bet." He received a B.S. in 1937. When no job developed, one of his university professors encouraged him to pursue graduate study. Late in the summer he was offered a teaching assistantship at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Neither he nor the university has ever been sorry. He earned an M.S. in 1938 and a Ph.D. in 1942, plus a great love for teaching.

The list of honors garnered during his long and distinguished career is extensive, capped by election to the Accounting Hall of Fame. Also included is the AICPA Gold Medal for Distinguished Service to the Profession, the Outstanding Accounting Educator Award of the American Accounting Association, the U.S. General Accounting Office Award for Public Service, the Alpha Kappa Psi Accounting Award, and the AICPA-AAA Notable Contributions to Accounting Literature Award. He has held many prestigious posts, among them president of the AAA, editor of The Accounting Review, founding editor of Accounting Horizons, and the only accountant on the profession's Public Oversight Board for more than a decade. A little-known fact is that, during World War II, Mautz trained for and served as a bomb disposal officer in England and on the continent experience that no stretch of the imagination can relate to accounting or auditing.

On return to civilian life, he worked in the Chicago offices of Haskins & Sells and Alexander Grant & Co., obtaining valuable experience in professional accounting and auditing. In 1948, he returned to the University of Illinois, accepting a permanent position in the Department of Accountancy. Mautz won widespread attention in academia, the accounting profession, and business for the quality and influence of his research. He held the prestigious Weldon Powell Professorship for three years, from 1969 to 1972. In 1972, he left the university to accept a partnership in Ernst & Ernst. That summer, he gave the Weldon Powell Lecture in Chicago and will be long remembered for requesting his stipend be in the form of a grandfather clock.

When, in 1978, he reached the firm's mandatory retirement age, Mautz returned to academic life, accepting a full-time position as director of the Paton Center for Accounting Education and Research at the University of Michigan. He reached the retirement age for that institution in 1985, and since that time has lived in Salt Lake City, where he has provided voluntary service in the Auditing Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, to which he was converted in Illinois many years ago. The three Mautz children, Robert Kuhn II, Carl, and Kristin, all received degrees from the University of Illinois.

"I don't ever remember being unhappy in my work for more than a day or two, but surely the University of Illinois gave me the happiest years of my life," Mautz told InSight. "Working conditions were ideal; the students were responsive; and opportunities for challenging research unlimited. It was as close to Heaven as one is likely to find in this life."

"And I must add my sincere gratitude for the special honors bestowed upon Joe Sutton and me. Teachers, like others, thrive on recognition, but few are so fortunate as to have a student as able and generous as Tom Sleeman."