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“Accounting stalwart Professor Mick White passes on” (9th Oct. 2016)


[Author’s note:  I was asked by Accounting lecturer Nacanieli Rika if I wished to add my words to his eulogy for Professor Mick White, who recently passed away. I sent him my message below, some of which, not all, was included in Naca’s eulogy.]

Accounting stalwart Professor Mick White passes on.

It is with deep sadness that I heard of the sudden passing away of Professor Mick White.

      We were colleagues at the School of Social and Economic Development (now FBE) when he originally came to work in the Pacific in the 1980s.  After a long stint he departed to teach at PNG but came back again, drawn by the much better quality of teaching and learning environment at USP.  

      He was a great Professor of Accounting and Head of Accounting, with a passion for teaching to the highest standards, with high grades only given to those who achieved the minimum standards that he expected.   As also did the Economics Department, Mick had no hesitation to award “Fail” grades where students did not meet his expectations and have high failure rates, which we did observe in the old days when assessment meetings were held at SSED with all departments together, so that all could keep an eye on each other’s standards (or lack of it).

      Mick’s honest refusal to compromise standards did not endear him to some of his students (naturally) nor to those who thought that high pass rates were synonymous with quality nor to those who wanted higher pass rates so as to achieve higher enrollments, which then entitled them to receive higher funding within the faculty.  This tension has unfortunately become stronger at USP as standards of incoming students have declined over the years.

      Mick received deserved acknowledgement from the accounting profession and business community in Fiji, who trusted his judgment when certifying a graduate as “good”.

      Mick was also an accountant with a social conscience, keen to ensure good governance and accountability from those in power. He (together with Roman Grynberg and Doug Brown) wrote a seminal book on the collapse of the National Bank of Fiji, even though he knew that it would not endear him to some with a shared responsibility for that collapse (if they ever read it). But Mick was also a stalwart supporter of the Fiji Institute of Accountants (as they will no doubt acknowledge).

      Mick loved classical music and when he found that we enjoyed Mozart and Vivaldi in common, one day I found several music CDs in my pigeon hole.

      Mick was a man without any airs, equally at home in the company of people with status, as with ordinary people, with no shyness at wandering down to the USP Swimming Pool in his towel, for his daily swim. 

      Mick was a deeply honest person, and he had the courage to associate with and write references for individuals, even if they had become unpopular with those in authority- for which I have been grateful.

      Even after I had departed USP, Mick was always willing to get together with me (often with burly Jo Titoko) at the USP Staff Club, of which he was a stalwart over the years, and where we had  a beer not too long ago, with no hint of ill-health.   

      Mick had a great love for Fiji and Fijian people, and was settling down here, even in his semi-retirement,

      Young accountants who want to dedicate their lives to teaching and researching without other distractions, have a great role model in Mick, even with his passing.  There can be no greater compliment to a teacher.

Professor Wadan Narsey
9th October 2016

[Author’s note:  The Fiji public today urgently requires neutral, objective critical guidance on the many fundamental accounting and auditing processes that are going wrong in Fiji, with massive losses to taxpayers. Tragically, the senior accounting academics at the three universities and the leading lights of accounting institutions (such as the Fiji Institute of Accountants), are totally silent, with a shameful abdication of social responsibility.  The pursuit of profits and side businesses, and professional cowardice, seem to totally over-ride any sense of the urgent need for professional service to the community, another horrible symptom of the decay of accounting and academic ethics in Fiji society.]

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