RICHARD MATTESSICH In his 98th year, Richard (Ricco) Mattessich died peacefully on September 30, 2019 following a heart attack. Born in Trieste on August 9, 1922, Ricco demonstrated an early fascination with the structure, form, and configuration of his grandfather's financial records. The physical attributes of bookkeepers' notations fascinated the young boy; in a 2014 interview, Ricco recalled how he "loved gazing at tidy columns of numbers, varying lengths of debit and credit lists, and the diagonal flourishes at the end of a reporting period." It was a passion that remained undimmed throughout his life. But with WWII on the horizon, Ricco needed a practical career and in 1940, he earned a degree in mechanical engineering from the Engineering College, Vienna. Ricco spent much of the war in Thessaloniki (Salonica), Greece, where he carried out the detailed cost accounting required to build and repair bridges; partisan forces repeatedly destroyed these essential structures which in turn, were duly repaired by Nazi crews over and over again. As a young adult, Ricco experienced the effect of spiralling inflation first-hand as when the cost of a glass of wine purchased one day was doubled the next. In 1944, Ricco returned to Vienna to pursue his enduring interest in accounting, graduating with an MBA and later, a Ph.D. in economics. Throughout the intense bombardment of Vienna by Soviet forces, Ricco worked diligently on his dissertation in a series of air-raid shelters, and such was his determination to complete his degree that a final oral exam was taken in a supposedly safe and secure location: a prison cell in the Rossauer Kaserne Barracks. Exhausted by terrible post-war conditions in Vienna, Ricco sought, and found, solace teaching commerce in St. Gallen, Switzerland. Among Ricco's students was Christian Strauss, grandson of the composer and conductor, Richard Strauss, and Ricco was delighted to share the composer's box at the Zurich opening of his opera, Elecktra. On an impromptu visit home to Vienna, Ricco met the great love of his life, Hermine (Hermi), who shared Ricco's interest in accounting and his deep knowledge and appreciation of classical music. On their first date they attended a performance of Der Rosenkavalier and listening to the work became an anniversary tradition shared throughout their long married life. The young couple emigrated to Canada in 1952, settling first in Montreal, then in Sackville, NB, where Ricco taught commerce at Mount Allison University. During this time, Ricco published a seminal paper discussing the application of matrix theory to accounting; the work introduced Ricco as a highly original thinker with the capacity to profoundly affect accounting theory and practice. The paper led to a Visiting Professorship at UC Berkeley, which itself evolved into a tenured associate professorship. In 1964, Ricco's career took off with the publication of two books demonstrating how computer technology could successfully be applied to business accounting. In 1967, Ricco was offered a position at UBC and he and Hermi settled permanently in Vancouver, walking distance from campus in a comfortable home with a large, restful garden designed by the noted Vancouver architect, Arthur Erickson. Ricco continued to publish widely and the couple travelled extensively as he presented papers around the globe and received numerous accolades for his work, including four honourary degrees from the Universities of Madrid (Complutense), Malaga, Montesquieu (Bordeaux, France), and Graz (Austria). He retired in 1988 and was granted the rank of Professor Emeritus. Following Hermi's death in 2012, Ricco remained in his home, reading and writing in his UBC office most days until age 95. His most recent paper was published in 2016, co-authored with his close friend and colleague, Prof. Dr. Giuseppe Galassi. An unexpected joy in Ricco's later years came from the many close friendships he developed with his neighbours. Ricco was a warm, engaging host, always ready to welcome visitors with old-world grace and elegance. Ricco made many significant contributions to the field of accounting. In addition to anticipating today's familiar spreadsheets, Ricco thought deeply about the analytical methods and the theoretical and philosophical underpinnings of accounting; similarly, he was a dedicated historian of the field. Many thanks to Dr. Chris Hodgson for his attentive care over the past many years. Cremation has taken place. Interment, followed by a reception, will be held Friday, October 25th. For details, email firstname.lastname@example.org In lieu of flowers, Ricco requested that donations be made to The David Suzuki Foundation. Into that hidden passage my guide and I entered, to find again the world of light, and, without thinking of a moment's rest, we climbed up, he first and I behind him, far enough to see, through a round opening, a few of those fair things the heavens bear. Then we came forth, to see again the stars. Dante, L'inferno, XXXIV
Published in The Globe and Mail from Oct. 17 to Oct. 21, 2019.