Eli Mason, whose career in public accounting spanned more than seven decades as a prac­titioner and a vocal proponent of the profession, died on August 4 following a long illness. He was 88.

Known as the "conscience of the profession," Mason argued tirelessly for auditor independence, objectivity and integrity, and often excoriated in his writing both firms and organizations that he felt veered from those foundations.

His titles and accomplishments include serving as president of the New York State Society of CPAs, as chairman of the New York State Board for Public Accountancy, and as vice president of the American Institute of CPAs. He was also a frequent columnist for Accounting Today.

A 1940 graduate of New York's Baruch College, Mason got his start with the firm of Klein, Hinds & Finke before founding Mason & Co. in 1946. Six years ago, Mason and Co. merged with New York mega-firm J.H. Cohn.

In 1968, he was elected the first president of the Baruch College Fund and, in 1992, he endowed the Eli Mason Chair in Accountancy at Baruch. Four years later, with his wife Claire, who was also an alumna from the class of 1940, he funded the restoration of the auditorium now known as Mason Hall.

During his distinguished career he was called to testify before the U.S. Senate on a number of occasions as an expert witness.

"We always hear about the passion CPAs bring to this great profession," said Barry Melancon, president and chief executive of the American Institute of CPAs. "If anyone exemplified that passion, it was Eli. He spent his long and admirable career caring deeply about our profession and its future. Eli challenged and prodded, but you always knew he approached an issue with an enormous commitment to what it means to be a CPA."

In 1998, he published Random Thoughts, a collection of his columns and writings over a 70-year span. He also published Conscience of the Profession: A Personal Journey, in 2005. His final column for Accounting Today appeared in June.

Mason leaves behind his wife of 67 years, Claire; two daughters, Judy and Nina; and several grandchildren. A memorial service will be held at noon, Sept. 13, 2009, in Mason Hall at Baruch College in Manhattan.

(c) 2009 Accounting Today and SourceMedia, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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