Benjamin C. Ayers, director of the J.M. Tull School of Accounting at the University of Georgia, has been named to the Earl Davis Chair in Taxation.
Ayers is the first professor to be appointed to the Davis Chair, which reached its goal of a $2 million endowment in 2008 and was approved as a new faculty chair by the state's Board of Regents this spring.
"Ben Ayers is recognized nationally for his research in taxation and is well known for his teaching and service as director of the Tull School of Accounting," said Robert T. Sumichrast, dean of the Terry College of Business, who announced the appointment. "He will continue to enhance the University of Georgia as a scholar and educator, in keeping with the legacy of Dr. Davis' outstanding reputation."
Ayers was named director of the Tull School in 2005 and is the sixth person to hold the title of director since the school was founded in 1977.
He joined the faculty of the Tull School in 1996, after completing his doctoral degree at the University of Texas. A certified public accountant in Alabama, Ayers worked as a tax consultant for KPMG in Atlanta and Tampa before returning to graduate school to pursue his doctorate. He received both his bachelor's and master's degrees in accounting from the University of Alabama.
An expert in taxation, Ayers is one of only two professors nationally to have been awarded both the American Accounting Association's Competitive Manuscript Award and American Taxation Association's Outstanding Manuscript Award, which he has won twice. In a recent study, he was recognized — along with four other Tull School professors — as being among the top 5 percent of the most productive accounting researchers over the past 50 years.
As an instructor, Ayers has taught introductory tax classes to undergraduate students, as well as a highly regarded tax policy and research class for students in the Master of Accountancy program. He is the recipient of 11 teaching awards, including the university's Richard B. Russell Undergraduate Teaching Award.
The Davis Chair endowment came from Davis' former students and professional colleagues, who raised funds for the chair. Davis passed away Aug. 8, 2008, in Athens at the age of 82. He is remembered by his students as a remarkably dedicated teacher and mentor in the taxation sequence at UGA, Sumichrast said. He retired after 30 years on the faculty, but remained engaged with the Tull School for many years in retirement.
The School of Accounting at UGA was one of the first in the nation to be established as a separate professional school within a college of business. In 1982, it was renamed the J.M. Tull School of Accounting after receiving an endowment from the J.M. Tull Charitable Foundation of Atlanta.
Under Ayers' leadership, the school's students and faculty have received numerous national awards, and its reputation and ranking among peer schools has improved. The school currently ranks second nationally for its "pass rate" among undergraduate students who were taking the CPA licensing exam for the first time. This past year, the Tull School's undergraduate, master's and doctoral programs were ranked seventh, 10th and 11th, respectively, by the trade publication Public Accounting Report, based on a national survey of accounting professors. All three program rankings improved upon the previous year.