Randolph Beatty took math as his college major because the registration line was shortest. He later signed up for an accounting class to keep a buddy company. But, said the new dean of the USC Leventhal School of Accounting, these were the happiest kinds of accidents.
“I know very few people who enjoy doing what they do as much as I do,” said Beatty, who holds the school’s Alan Casden Endowed Dean’s Chair.
Beatty comes to USC from the Edwin L. Cox School of Business at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, where he was distinguished professor of accounting for nine years.
Beatty’s areas of expertise are in initial public offerings, reputation formation and private-firm valuation. Recent papers include analyses of the impacts of the Penny-Stock Reform Act and the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act. His best-known work focuses on the phenomenon of underpricing of IPOs.
Winner of SMU’s Distinguished MBA Teacher Award in 1993, he was named one of Business Week’s Twelve Masters of the Classroom in 1994.
“I love teaching,” he said. “Unabashedly so.”
Beatty began his teaching career while still a graduate student at the University of Illinois. He has also taught at the University of Chicago’s Graduate School of Business and at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.
“I’ve known Randy since he was a junior assistant professor at Wharton,” said USC Marshall School of Business Dean Randolph Westerfield, who was then Wharton’s chair of finance. “He has a stellar academic record, and we’re pleased he’s now ready to take an administrative assignment at one of the very best schools of accounting anywhere.”
His predecessors, Mike Diamond, Doyle Williams and Ken Merchant, “have left me with a very nice platform,” Beatty said. “And I’m very lucky that they’re all still available and have offered their help.”
Besides turning to the three former deans with occasional questions, Beatty intends to turn some of the lessons he has learned from teaching and research into administering – namely, that real-world accounting is not just about number-crunching.
“If you’re going to work in the accounting context,” he said, “you need to know how to debit and credit. You need to pass the CPA exam. But there’s no substitute for thinking.”
The invaluable skills are knowing how to present an idea effectively and how to structure a problem – which is partly what attracted him to the Leventhal School. “There’s been a lot of work done to introduce writing, problem-solving and group work into the curriculum,” he said.
Beatty wants to encourage students to broaden their horizons – with “what’s important: a good English course, rhetoric, history” – and he hopes also to change the long-held stereotype of the sour, dour, gray-suited accountant.
“Our public relations are pretty lousy,” he said. “We haven’t done a good job of saying why you’d want to go into the field, when the profession, in fact, is filled with opportunities for innovation and offers up a smorgasbord of businesses to work with.”
Other challenges Beatty intends to tackle include communicating more effectively with alumni and recruiting Ph.D. students who will go on to teach in U.S. universities.
Beatty is a member of the American Accounting Association, American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, American Finance Association and Financial Executives Institute.
In addition to serving on the editorial board of Accounting Horizons and of Review of Quantitative Finance and Accounting, he serves as an ad hoc reviewer for two dozen other professional journals.
When he’s not setting himself marathon professional tasks, Beatty skis, golfs and runs marathons. He finished his last in under four hours.
He and his wife, Ellen, live in Manhattan Beach. They have two daughters: Alicia, 7, and Christine, 3.