Beloved Indian-American professor at University of Arizona has school named after him

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Professor Dan Dhaliwal, late dean of the University of Arizona Eller College of Management’s School of Accountancy, was one of the top researchers in the world in financial and tax accounting. This Fall 2020, UA decided to rename it the Dhaliwal-Reidy School of Accountancy. Photo: courtesy Eller.arizona.edu

Professor of Accountancy Dan Dhaliwal touched so many lives, not just of his students, but of their parents and families as well as of his fellow faculty, that the University of Arizona Eller College of Management renamed one of its highly esteemed institutes based in Tuscon, AZ, the Dhaliwal-Reidy School of Accountancy, effective Fall 2020.

The renaming was a tribute to the much-loved Indian-American professor who was dean of the school for 20 years but spent 35 years altogether in the institution. The renaming also included the alumni and donor family of James and Virginia Reidy.

Dhaliwal was one of the top researchers in the world in financial and tax accounting and mentored 60 PhD students at UA, notes the Sept. 29, 2020, press release from the University.

“He touched so many lives in such an intimate way,” recalls his wife Amarjeet Dhaliwal, in an interview with News India Times. “He was a very humble human being, and this is a way to acknowledge his humanity,” she surmises. “He touched them at a much deeper level than just the academic.”

When Professor Dhaliwal took sick and was hospitalized in Houston, TX., students came to sit at his bedside from as far away as Singapore. They had shared not just classroom hours with him, but spent time telling him about their lives and their problems and successes when they took his courses.

He in turn, kept in touch with them even after they graduated and got jobs around the world, checking on their lives and inquiring after their families.

He truly signified the traditional guru-shishya relationship, Dhaliwal agreed. He died too early at 71, she says.

One of the bigger lessons that Professor Dhaliwal imparted to his students was to engage in service of others.

His son Gautham Dhaliwal, president of DoTopia, a charitable giving platform, was certainly inspired by his father on that count, he told News India Times. “This is just a way to spend my life doing good for others, and yes, it is definitely following my father’s lessons,” he said, adding, “I am very happy and proud of my father’s legacy and I continue to learn from the example he set. The naming of the accounting department is an incredible honor for our entire family! The accounting school was a second home for him, and more importantly the people at the department were a second family for my father. I truly believe that he cared for the department and the whole team as if they were true family. On behalf of the Dhaliwal family, we are truly honored and humbled by this incredibly kind gesture that we will be able to share with generations to come.

As for his school, Professor Dhaliwal considered it his temple, a sacred space, bowing and giving silent homage every time he entered the premises, Amarjeet Dhaliwal said.

“Being the namesake of Dan Dhaliwal came with many expectations as he was the patriarch of our family.  He was the support for us all and I learned more about his deeds from others, as he was too humble to speak of his own accomplishments,” recalls Dr. Dan Sraow about his uncle, adding, “Those silent efforts included contributions to academia, supporting my family, and even helping strangers who were suffering. It was his mentorship and love that lead me to my own success in life. I am honored to be named after him. I am proud that the department now has his namesake and will live on.“

Dean of Eller School of Management, Paulo Goes, while praising the commitment and generosity of the Reidy family is quoted saying in the press release that he was “proud to be able to have their names forever combined with Dan Dhaliwal’s name to bring top level education and future success to generations of students and scholars in the outstanding Dhaliwal-Reidy School of Accountancy.”

“Dan Dhaliwal was a principled leader and uniquely influential researcher,” said Goes. “The strength of the accounting department at the University and the impact his research has had on tax accounting and policy are only part of his legacy. The other part is intangible—the many people he mentored, all of whom benefitted from the personal responsibility he felt for their success.”

Following graduation in 1977, Professor Dhaliwal began as an assistant professor of accounting at the University of Iowa. He returned to his alma mater, starting as an associate professor of accounting in 1980. He was awarded the Frances McClelland Endowed Chair of Accounting and was head of the Department of Accounting for 20 years—serving at Eller in total for more than 35 years.

“Dan shaped the accounting department into what it is today—and it’s a mark of who he was that so many people stepped forward to have his name forever associated with the school,” said Jeff Schatzberg, director of the School of Accountancy and current holder of the Frances McClelland Endowed Chair of Accounting.

Soon after his death in 2016, one of his students was quoted saying in a UA press release that having Prof. Dhaliwal in as his mentor was life altering.

“I met Dan in 1992. Some people never get that one big lucky break in life. My lucky break was meeting Dan, and having him take me under his wing,” said Merle Erickson, professor of accounting at University of Chicago, Booth School of Business, and a doctoral alumnus of the UA. “Dan changed my life. Not just my research and my career – my life. I think the same is true for many of Dan’s former students and colleagues. Dan was a terrific and well respected scholar. His scholarship was perhaps only surpassed by his quality as a person. I have long aspired to be as good a person as Dan was, but I know that is a mountain too high to climb. I am devastated to lose Dan, but am thankful that I was one of those fortunate enough to call him mentor and friend.”

Contributions continue to be made, and a formal naming ceremony will be announced when possible, the University said.

The Eller College of Management’s Dhaliwal-Reidy School of Accountancy is ranked among the top 50 accounting undergraduate and graduate programs in U.S. News & World Report’s 2020 Best Colleges rankings with the accounting undergraduate program ranked #25 among public universities and the graduate program ranking #16 among public universities, the press release said.

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