History of the Program: William von Minden's Legacy

Portions contributed by Carter Daniel

In 1946, when the University of Newark and its School of Business Administration became part of Rutgers University, William von Minden was already a senior professor and co-author of a successful introductory textbook in accounting. 700 pages!  Four years later, in 1950, our school launched a Master of Business Administration (MBA). For the first time, students who studied English or history as undergraduates could study business at the graduate level at Rutgers.

"What about accounting?" said Professor William von Minden. In 1954, we launched an MBA just for accounting. It was the first program of its kind in the United States. Colleges taught accounting since the nineteenth century, but the students who went through these programs were most often taken into the employ of private companies.  Those who did go into public accounting firms had to make the special arrangements on their own.

Professor von Minden, perceiving that a market existed for graduate-level instruction in public accounting. He personally devised the entire program himself in a very short time. The first professional accounting students enrolled in the summer of 1956.

Based on some of the articles written at the time, it appears as though the program was perceived as a "separate school" with von Minden as "dean and director."

The perception given in the published articles is logical as Von Minden believed that there was a need for separate schools of accountancy. He saw a trend towards graduate education in accounting. Specifically, von Minden envisioned a move away from the four-year undergraduate degree in accounting.

The four-year undergraduate degree would ultimately be replaced by professional schools. He thought that, like law and medicine, separate schools of accountancy were needed to have the public consider accountancy as a profession.

To raise accountancy to the level of a profession, von Minden believed that entrants should possess a well-rounded liberal arts education, followed by professional training in a graduate school. To achieve this goal, von Minden sought bright, articulate candidates with arts and science backgrounds. Communication skills were critical.

The goal of the professional accounting program has not changed: we still seek to produce broadly educated CPAs.

Initially, it appeared that von Minden may have over-estimated the demand and made a mistake. There were only nine students starting the program in June of 1956.

In July 1957, Dean Esterly reported that the program would have to be discontinued unless enrollment increased, and later that same month he wrote again that the program, although it was the first of its type and "should bring distinction to the School and to the University," was very expensive and would be given only one more year's trial.   

To increase enrollments, von Minden wrote many articles about the program, he personally designed promotional materials and made visits to numerous liberal arts colleges to recruit students. Fortunately enrollment did pick up soon afterward.  In 1966 ten years later, enrollments grew to approximately 47 students and the program continues today with enrollment upwards of 70 during the past three years.

Rutgers Pioneer Program Reaches Milestone: Ten Years for Graduate School of Professional Accounting

Professor von Minden was probably the only person who could have brought about this accomplishment. A practicing accountant rather than a person of academic background, he personally knew just about everybody of importance in the New York City area accounting community.  In fact, all the professors teaching in the program at the time were CPAs and practitioners (the Ph.D., in accounting was rare at the time). Von Minden was always able to attract the best professionals to teach in the program.

Von Minden's dignity and uprightness won the admiration of all whose path he crossed, both outside and inside the university setting. He became the first college professor ever elected to the presidency of the New Jersey Society of Certified Public Accountants, and the organization later awarded him a citation for distinguished service.  He also served on the standard setting board of the AICPA.

The School of Business Alumni Association, remembering him as a patient and wise professor and as the highly respected Acting Dean for two years after Dean Esterly's retirement, presented him its award for Outstanding Service to the University.

A Chaired Professorship in Accounting named after him was established at Rutgers upon his own retirement in 1970 and later funded by his former students. He lives in the records of the RBS as one of the great forces that helped shaped it.

Former AICPA Official Awarded Professorship

In 2013, 15% of the MBA degrees awarded by the graduate school, 65 out of 436 were from Professor von Minden's MBA in Professional Accounting program.