David Flint: Professor of Accountancy and university vice-principal

Professor David Flint
Professor David Flint
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David Flint, Professor of Accountancy and university vice-principal. Born: 24 February, 1919 in Glasgow. Died: 14 May, 2017 in Muthill, Perthshire, aged 98

Fortunately for generations of students, David Flint decided that the life of an actuary sounded just too dull and opted instead for a career in chartered accountancy.

Unfortunately for Flint, the Second World War put his apprenticeship on hold after a mere ten days, leading to a seven-year hiatus while he fought in the Royal Corp of Signals, landing on the Normandy beaches on D-Day.

But after returning from war service, in which he was Mentioned in Despatches, his professional life was soon in the ascendency as he became an accountancy firm partner, lecturer, university dean and ultimately vice-principal of one of Scotland’s oldest academic institutions, making an outstanding contribution in his field.

The son of master grocer David Flint and his wife Agnes, he was born in Glasgow’s Queens Park and attended Strathbungo and Sir John Neilson Cuthbertson Schools before going on to the High School of Glasgow, where, at the end of 5th year, he considered becoming an actuary but was deterred by the tedious task of dealing with mortality statistics.

The alternative, following MA studies at Glasgow University, was to join the local office of accountants Mann, Judd, Gordon & Co as an apprentice, which he did in August 1939. Just over a week later he was mobilised as a Territorial Army officer and he served in the Royal Corps of Signals for seven years.

Stationed at Eaglesham near Glasgow, he was on duty as officer in charge of No 1 Company, 12th Anti-aircraft Divisional Signals, on the night in 1941 when Hitler’s deputy, Rudolph Hess, parachuted into a nearby field on a futile peace mission to see the Duke of Hamilton.

Hess was imprisoned for the rest of the war while Flint, who rose to the rank of major, went on to fight his way through Europe after landing in 
Occupied France on June 6, 1944.

He went ashore from a landing craft tank near Hermanville, advancing through France, Holland, Belgium and Germany for the next year, and received a Mention in Despatches for his gallant and distinguished service in North-west Europe.

More than 70 years later, at the age of 97, he and fellow troops, who helped to liberate France from Nazi tyranny were finally honoured with the country’s highest award, the Legion d’Honneur.

On his return from war service in 1946, having been awarded a Bachelor of Laws degree in absentia, Flint completed his chartered accountancy training with Mann Judd Gordon & Co and was a partner in the firm by 1951.

The previous year he had become a part-time lecturer in Industrial Accountancy at his alma mater and in 1964 he became Glasgow University’s Johnstone Smith Professor of Accountancy.

He also continued to work at the accountancy firm for several years but retired from the company in 1971 to concentrate fully on his academic commitments, becoming Dean of Glasgow University’s Faculty of Law from 1971 to 1973. During his tenure he was also vice-president of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland (ICAS). He was appointed to the university’s new Chair of Accountancy in 1975, the same year he became ICAS president.

By that time he had already made valuable contributions to the Institute’s education programme and served as assistant examiner in law. In the late 1970s he was also a member of the Commission for Local Authority Accounts in Scotland and later held the presidency of the European Accounting Association, from 1983-84.

He was appointed vice-
principal, with a special interest in financial matters, of Glasgow University in 1981, a role he fulfilled until retiring in 1985 to live in Perthshire. During his academic career he had been at the forefront of developing accountancy studies at the university, instituting the degrees of Bachelor and Master of Accountancy.

He also undertook reviews and investigations, notably a high-profile report for the liquidator of Upper Clyde Shipbuilders to determine the circumstances in which the directors carried on the business in the lead-up to liquidation.

In retirement Flint continued to contribute to his field: as guest professor at universities in Odense in Denmark and Leuven in Belgium; as honorary professor of accountancy at Stirling University and as visiting professor at Edinburgh’s Herriot-Watt University.

Throughout his long career his passion for his subject inspired generations of students who now have the concept he espoused, of the standard of A True and Fair View, indelibly printed on their minds.

And, in recognition of his significant contribution to Glasgow University and the accountancy profession, in 2001 he was awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of the University.

He was also honoured with lifetime achievement awards by the British Accounting Association in 2004 and by ICAS in 2013.

“Professor Flint was an extraordinary person who combined a long and eminent academic life with a successful business career,” said Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Glasgow, Professor Anton Muscatelli.

“The University was extremely fortunate to benefit from David’s many talents as lecturer and senior leader, culminating in his period as Dean and Vice-Principal, and was delighted to mark his outstanding contribution publicly through the award of an honorary degree.”

He added: “We have lost a remarkable individual but his legacy in the world of accountancy will live on for years to come.”

Predeceased by his wife Dorothy, whom he married in 1953, he is survived by their sons David and Douglas, daughter Dorothy, seven grandchildren and three great grandchildren.

ALISON SHAW