The CoB Community Mourns the Passing of Dr. Lee J. Yao

Lee J. Yao, Ph.D.
Lee J. Yao, Ph.D.

College of Business Accounting Professor Lee J. Yao, Ph.D., passed away November 14, 2012, after fighting a long and courageous battle with cancer. Yao, who joined the CoB faculty in 2007, served as the Fr. Joseph A. Butt, S.J., Distinguished Professor in Accounting (Emeritus) and was a Marquette Faculty Fellow.

Born in Hong Kong, Yao had adopted Melbourne, Australia, as his hometown before coming to New Orleans. He brought more than 20 years of corporate experience to the CoB accounting department having worked for firms such as Hewlett-Packard, IBM, the Commonwealth of Australia, and Arthur Anderson. As an academician, Yao had published four books and 28 articles in premier national and international journals.

Yao’s research focused on three main areas: corporate governance and how earnings management and cash flow manipulation affected various capital market reactions; information technology investment and how it could increase firm value and improve productivity (with particular focus on the productivity paradox phenomena); and forensic accounting, specifically how different methods of fraud detection could lead to certain legal outcomes and minimize potential legal costs in complex legal procedures.

All three streams of Yao’s research had practical implications, and all involved how to improve firm value. He applied many of his research findings to consulting work in assisting major multinational organizations to improve certain characteristics of their operations, thereby minimizing risks of value reduction or improving firm value. His last co-authored article, “Improving ethics education in accounting: Lessons from medicine and law,” was published in Issues in Accounting Education in 2012.

But it isn’t just Yao’s scholarly work that people remember. Professor Nick Capaldi, Ph.D., one of his colleagues, spoke to his sense of collegiality.

“Collegiality means being united in a common purpose and respecting each other’s very different abilities to work toward that purpose. In most university settings, there are many colleagues but little collegiality. Lee Yao embodied collegiality. I recall in particular a conference he organized in China, the bureaucratic obstacles and corruption he had to overcome for the conference even to take place and not be cancelled, the way in which he encouraged each participant to find their appropriate niche in the program, and his respect for the intellectual status of the participants. In the end, he created a community of peers.”

Another CoB colleague, Wing Fok, Ph.D., remembers Yao’s determination in ensuring his students had a sense of global understanding that would make them better business people.

“When it came to international education, Lee embraced the importance of learning by total immersion. His ability to use every opportunity to educate his students impressed me immensely. I was fortunate to have him as a colleague on our many journeys with students in China. My favorite recollection is when he would take our students to the busiest part of Beijing and ask them to bargain with the street vendors. Imagine how nerve-wracking the experience could be to anybody in a foreign country without the language capability. Lee insisted that learning how to bargain at the street corner would develop the students’ ability to open themselves up when dealing with people from a totally different culture, as well as sharpening their negotiation skills. That, to me, is learning by total immersion. In case you are wondering: At the end of the day, nobody could beat Lee in the ‘Art of Bargaining,’ of course.”

CoB students felt the loss as well. “I miss Professor Yao,” says recent accounting grad Kevin Tran. “I reminisce about the moments he shared with us in class about stories of his life in Sydney and Minnesota. Professor Yao always helped me whenever I had a question and went out of his way to assist me. He was a reputable teacher, and a kind and gentle man. May we honor his memory and carry out our lives with the knowledge gained from him while helping others along the way.”

Yao’s hobbies included playing golf and flying. He is survived by his wife, Michelle, and two children.

View the complete spring 2013 issue of Loyola Executive.

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