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Feb 18, 2016 2016-02 Accountancy Alumni Faculty

In Memoriam: Gerald Brighton, Accountancy Professor and Public Servant

Gerry Brighton, showing his Ernst & Whinney Distinguished Professor of Accountancy endowment in 1983 Gerry Brighton, showing his Ernst & Whinney Distinguished Professor of Accountancy endowment in 1983 Gerald “Gerry” Brighton, a highly distinguished professor of accountancy in the College of Business, passed away February 13, 2016 at age 95. Over the span of an almost 50-year career, he made a difference both as an instructor of countless students and as a tireless public servant who championed civil rights. Brighton began his Illinois career as a student, earning his bachelor’s (1941), master’s (1947), and PhD (1953) degrees – all from the University of Illinois. He started teaching accountancy part time in the College in 1946 while he was a graduate student and became a full-time professor at Illinois in 1954, after spending a year as a staff accountant for Touche, Niven, Bailey & Smart in Chicago. During World War II, he served as a purchasing & supply officer (Major) for the US Air Corps. Along with a visiting professorship at the University of Texas at Austin in 1973, Brighton continued to teach in the College’s accountancy department until his retirement in 1990. Brighton’s career is marked by a long history of public service, beginning with his PhD dissertation topic on “The Social Responsibility of Public Accountants.” He first sought public office in 1967 to address issues of racial injustice in real estate. As alderman of the Fifth Ward of Urbana, he was a minority democrat on the city council who gained a reputation for reaching across partisan divides to build consensus. He worked to outlaw real estate practices that prevented African-Americans from buying or renting property in historically “white” neighborhoods. His efforts can be credited for Urbana City Council’s passing of a Fair Housing Ordinance and another ordinance that established the Urbana Commission on Human Relations within his first year of office. In 1979 he served as a program specialist for the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development in Washington, D.C. He directed accounting and auditing research projects for state and local government in the Office of Policy Development and Research. He was also active in Wesley United Methodist Church in Urbana and chaired a finance committee to help the church erect a new building. He served the University YMCA in various roles including Board of Directors, treasurer, and chairman from 1937 until late in life. His volunteer service extended to many other organizations, including the University Athletic Board of Control, United Way of Champaign County, American Institute of CPAs, Urbana-Champaign Senate Conference, the Illinois CPA Society, and the American Accounting Association. An accomplished teacher and researcher, Brighton specialized in the fields of income tax policy and public-sector accountancy. He published extensively throughout his career, including five audit guides, three book chapters, eight items in published proceedings, and 26 articles. He was the doctoral advisor to 30 PhD students and served on 42 doctoral dissertation committees. Brighton received many accolades over the course of his career in the College. He was recognized as PhD Alumnus of the Year (1983) by the Accountancy Graduate Students Association. At the same time, he became the first Ernst & Whinney Distinguished Professor of Accountancy – an endowed position which he held from 1983 until semi-retirement in 1988. In 1985 he was honored as a life member of the Illinois CPA Society. Wesley United Methodist Church in Urbana recognized Brighton and his wife, Lois, with its Peace and Justice Award in 2005. As a student, he was a Bronze Tablet scholar and a member of multiple honorary societies, including Beta Gamma Sigma, Phi Kappa Phi, Beta Alpha Psi, and Phi Eta Sigma. Gerry and Lois Brighton had five children, seven grandchildren, and also served as host family to many international students at the University of Illinois. The Brighton family invites memorial contributions to the Gerald D. and Lois R. Brighton Scholarship Fund at the University of Illinois Foundation, the Wesley Foundation, and the University YMCA.