William John Bruns Jr., Henry R. Byers Professor Emeritus of Business Administration, passed away on September 1, 2022 at his home in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Bruns is recognized as a distinguished scholar and teacher in the field of accounting.
Bruns first visited HBS in 1969 as an associate professor after tenures at Yale University and the University of Washington. After joining HBS, he was named the Henry R. Byers Professor of Business Administration in 1993. As a member of the Accounting and Management Department (then called Controlling, then Accounting and Controlling), he is the author of “It’s Good.” Over 100 cases, notes, exercises and teaching notes, some of which are still bestsellers today. He also authored Accounting for Managers and a companion instructor’s manual, and has reprinted the third edition in other books.
In a message to the HBS community, Dean Srikant Datar noted, “In everything he does, Bill brings an equal level of empathy and rigor to himself and others with kindness and compassion. High standards. He was well-liked by his students and recognized as a generous and caring colleague.”
Bruns has taught the required financial reporting and control courses in the MBA program, owner/president management program, and a range of focused courses including small business strategic financing. He is known for his adept case-based teaching method and regularly shares these skills with other teachers through numerous teaching seminars. He was Unit Leader, Course Leader, and Chairman of the Academic Committee at Control; in addition, he was one of the pioneer teachers of the International Senior Executives Program at the Vevey Academy in Switzerland, and was Director for several years in the 1980s.
“Bill was the perfect HBS teacher, and he set the standard for the rest of us,” said Robert Simmons, the Charles M. Williams Professor of Business Administration Emeritus. “He had an uncanny ability to stand in the shoes of his students, and he developed lesson plans that made complex topics both interesting and accessible. Not surprisingly, his cases were well-loved by both teachers and students. Bill was also a young teacher ( Generous mentors, including me, help us develop our case writing skills and provide feedback and suggestions to improve our classroom teaching.”
Krishna Palepu, the Ross Graham Walker Professor of Business Administration, said: “When I joined HBS as a junior faculty member, Bill was a kind mentor and colleague for me. He was an accomplished scholar who cared deeply about getting through His research and teaching impacted the world. He brought a lot of warmth and commitment to the classroom. He was also a very creative case writer – I still use some of his cases in my teaching. I will miss him dearly.”
After retiring from Harvard Business School in 2001, Bruns joined the faculty at Northeastern University’s D’Amore-McKim School of Business, teaching undergraduate financial and managerial accounting. Bill holds degrees in Business Administration from the University of Redlands and Harvard Business School. He received his Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley.
Bill’s first wife, Barbara Dodge, survived. His second wife, Sharon (Shay) McKinnon; his children, Robert, John, David, Michael, and Anastasia Katherine; their five spouses; and four grandchildren.