Remembering Hein Schreuder

Posted by WILLEM BUIJINK - Jun 08, 2023
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Hein Schreuder, EAA President in 1991/92, died unexpectedly, only 71, on Sunday, May 28 in Maastricht, The Netherlands. 

This is a brief personal note to mourn and commemorate him.

Hein studied Business Economics at the VU Amsterdam. He defended his PhD dissertation there in 1981. 

Hein then spent 1982 and 1983 in the USA, at the University of Washington, where he began to build his international network. 

Hein’s dissertation addressed the problems of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), and the potential of corporate social reporting. University of Washington accounting professor Kavassari Ramanathan had a few years earlier also addressed this in a 1976 TAR paper.

When George Benston wrote about CSR and social reporting in AOS in 1981, arguing that corporations (its shareholders) are not necessarily ‘socially irresponsible’ and that corporate social reporting was not unproblematical, Hein reacted. He teamed up with Ramanathan to write two AOS papers critically analysing Benston’s paper. Hein (and Ramanathan, and Benston as well) must be credited with considerable foresight, identifying CSR and corporate social reporting as important issues for accounting (research). Hein was an early academic pioneer in this area. 

Coming back to The Netherlands, Hein was, in 1984, appointed Professor of Business Economics, Strategy & Organization at the newly created School of Business and Economics (SBE) of, the also new, Maastricht University (UM) (these are the current names). 

Hein, because of his accounting background, also acted as Professor of Accounting until Jan van de Poel arrived in 1986. Hein therefore recruited the first few accounting academics for the SBE: I was one of them. 

Hein helped lay the foundations for the UM Department of Accounting. He influenced us in 2 important other ways: he showed us the value of (1) international academic networking and (2) of publishing our research internationally (contributing to accounting debates in international journals: as in his discussion with Benston). This was unusual in academic accounting in the Netherlands at the time.

Apart from his USA stay, his international networking manifested itself also in his involvement with EIASM in Brussels. He was a Fellow there from 1981 to 1991. He contributed to the accounting activities of EIASM by organising an Advanced Research in Accounting seminar series: a forerunner of the later EDEN Accounting Research PhD seminars.

Through EIASM and his AOS papers, he must have gotten to know Anthony Hopwood. Hein then also became involved in the EAA. He was one of the creators of the EAA Doctoral Colloquium. He co-organized the first one in Brussels in 1985. He then went on to organise the 1991 EAA conference in Maastricht, which Anthony Hopwood said was ‘the first professionally organised EAA congress’. It put the UM Accounting Department ‘on the accounting research map’ in Europe. Hein served as the 1991/92 EAA President.

Not long after the 1991 congress he left academia to work for Royal DSM N.V., The Netherlands: he worked in Corporate Strategy Development. He retired from DSM in 2012 as Executive Vice-President. Within DSM, he could implemen many of his ideas about CSR developed in his academic years.

Hein was very tall. He had a deep voice, and spoke and argued well. This gained him natural authority. He used that effectively in his academic managerial activities: always with humour though.

As accounting academics in Maastricht, we saw less of him, after the EAA congress. In research he mostly focused on organisational studies and then he left for DSM. 

I met him occasionally over the years. Our meetings were always interesting and informative: and they were fun.