In Memoriam: Professor Emeritus Bala Balachandran, 1937–2021

Headshot photo of Bala Balachandran

Bala Balachandran, Professor Emeritus of Accounting Information and Management

Friends remember a scholar and teacher whose boundless energy benefited generations of students worldwide.

Kellogg remembers Bala Balachandran, Professor Emeritus of Accounting Information and Management, who passed away on Monday, September 27, at the age of 84. He retired in 2008 after 35 years on the Kellogg faculty.

A prolific researcher, Bala authored more than 100 articles and several books, spanning several areas including statistics, econometrics, operations research, accounting and finance. He joined the Kellogg faculty in 1973, and went on to serve as chair of the Accounting Information and Management Department (1979–1983) and director of the Accounting Research Center (1985–2006). At the time of his retirement, he held the J. L. Kellogg Distinguished Professorship in Accounting Information and Management.

“We in the Kellogg community will fondly remember Bala’s generosity of spirit and the indelible imprint he left on management education, both here at Kellogg and around the world,” said Dean Francesca Cornelli.

Friends and colleagues recalled Balachandran’s boundless energy. “No single person, in fact, no two people, could keep up with him,” recalled Ronald Dye, the Leonard Spacek Professor of Accounting Information and Management.

“He would be writing three research papers with colleagues at the same time he was raising money for the Accounting Research Center, at the same time he was teaching in an executive program at the Allen Center and also working on a conference for an Indian management association,” Dye remembered.

Balachandran also helped start the India Business Club and promoted experiential learning initiatives, including Global Initiatives in Management (GIM), both efforts that have benefited countless Kellogg students over the years.

He didn’t hesitate to put his vast network to use to benefit students, Dye said. While leading one particularly memorable GIM trip to India, he asked students who they most wanted to meet. “The students said they wanted to meet Mother Theresa. He made that happen.” 

As a teacher, he made accounting come to life for students, some of whom became lifelong friends, said Swaminathan Sridharan, the John and Norma Darling Distinguished Professor in Financial Accounting. “Students clamored to get enrolled, particularly in his management accounting classes.”

David Besanko, IBM Professor of Regulation and Competitive Practice, was one of those students. He first met Balachandran in 1978 when he was a PhD student in the professor’s linear optimization course, and the two struck up a lasting friendship after Besanko joined the Kellogg faculty in 1991.

“He was a key mentor to many young faculty members and students from India,” said Besanko. “And he had enormous visibility in that part of the world. Would Kellogg have become as global as we have become without Bala? Probably. But he drastically accelerated that process and got us there sooner.”

As a friend, Balachandran was always eager to provide hospitality and a helping hand, in ways big and small, his colleagues said.

When Besanko and his wife, Maureen, adopted a baby girl from India, Balachandran “was instrumental in helping us,” introducing the couple to key people who helped them navigate the process there.

Recalled Robert Magee, Professor Emeritus of Accounting Information and Management: “When my son and his fiancé were traveling home from Asia, they had a long layover in Bangkok. Bala used his contacts to get them accommodations for a respite. Even on the other side of the world, Bala was looking out for people.”

“Bala had a big heart,” agreed Dipak Jain, former Kellogg dean from 2001 to 2009. “Although he is no longer with us physically, his pleasant personality will make us smile for decades to come.”

Balachandran leaves behind a profound legacy of advancing management education globally. He was instrumental in creating Hyderabad's Indian School of Business (ISB), which has since grown to become one of the country’s most prestigious business schools. In 2004, he founded the Great Lakes Institute of Management in his hometown of Chennai, India. He also played a significant role in shaping the faculty and programs at other business schools in India, the US, the UK, Israel, Thailand, Germany and Malaysia.

In 2001, he received the Padma Shri, one of India’s highest civilian honors, for his achievements in the field of education.

He is survived by his wife, Vasantha; his sons Sudhakar, Kellogg MBA graduate class of 1990, and Diwakar, a current student in Kellogg’s EMBA Miami Program; and his grandchildren.

“Bala’s innate propensity to help one and all endeared him to everyone,” said Sridharan. “Bala represented the best of Kellogg culture: being a great team player, and always looking out for the best of the school. He will be fondly remembered by thousands of his students, colleagues and other scholars all over the world.”

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