In remembrance of Irvine Lapsley

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Chris Carter pays tribute to Professor Irvine Lapsley who passed away peacefully at the Marie Curie Hospice in Edinburgh after a brief illness.

Irvine’s dedication to academia was unstinting. In March he successfully convened a workshop marking his recently published book (The Resilience of New Public Management), edited with his friend Professor Peter Miller from the London School of Economics. Irvine was a prolific researcher who left a substantial mark on the field of public-sector accounting. His path-breaking contribution to forging the interconnections between public management and accounting earned him an international reputation.

Irvine was remarkably entrepreneurial and played an influential role in the academic community. He was an institution builder and was a significant figure in the early years of the European Institute of Advanced Studies in Management and the European Accounting Association. He was also a long-serving editor of the Financial Accountability and Management journal. Irvine organised countless events, including the annual NPS and EIASM Public Sector workshops.

Many University staff will remember Irvine as the inaugural Dean of the Business School (then the School of Management and Economics), serving between 2002 and 2007. His key task involved bringing together the fiercely independent departments of Accounting and Business Method, Business Studies, and Economics. He also founded and ran the University’s Institute for Public Sector Accounting Research.

Professor Irvine Lapsley played an influential role in the academic community

The University played a central role in Irvine’s life. He graduated with a First Class Honours degree and later became a Chartered Accountant. He returned to the University as a lecturer, wrote a PhD thesis, and built a distinguished academic career. His first chair was at Stirling University, and in 1991, he returned to Edinburgh.

Irvine was proud to have established three prizes in his name: firstly the ‘Irvine Lapsley Prize’, awarded to the student with the highest degree classification average across the Accounting and Finance MA and Accounting and Business MA; secondly the ‘Irvine Lapsley Prize for the Best Undergraduate Accounting Dissertation’, awarded to the student with the most distinguished dissertation on a topic in accounting, from students on the Accounting and Finance MA and Accounting and Business MA; and thirdly the ‘Irvine Lapsley Prize for the Best Postgraduate Accounting Dissertation’.

Although Irvine formally retired in 2012, he continued to focus on his research. He was a visiting professor at Lund University, the Politecnico Milano, and Queens University Belfast.

Irvine was obsessed with football. After about five minutes of meeting someone new, he would inevitably ask: ‘Who is your team?’. His team was East Stirlingshire FC, and countless academic visitors accompanied him to see ‘The Shire’ in action. In 2012, the University held a special graduation ceremony at the London Olympics; Irvine delivered the laureation for Pele, one of the honorary graduates. It was a proud moment for him.

Irvine was an exceptional individual who had a significant influence on the field of public sector accounting and played an important role in the Business School. He loved the University and the City of Edinburgh. He was intelligent and always cheerful. His absence will be felt deeply. Our condolences go out to his wife, Pam, and his extended family.