An expert in taxation and former consultant at KPMG, Ayers has lead the Tull School to an unprecedented level of success, with its undergraduate, master’s and Ph.D. programs consistently ranking in the top 10 among public research institutions, and its graduates achieving the highest first-time CPA pass rates among public universities.
Ayers, 48, has been at the Terry College since 1996, and holds the Earl Davis Chair in Taxation. He succeeds UGA President Emeritus Charles B. Knapp, who served as interim dean following the departure of Robert Sumichrast.
“I am excited for the opportunity to lead the college’s efforts to promote the very best education to our students,” Ayers said. “We have a lot to be proud of in the Terry College with respect to the accomplishments of our students, faculty and programs. And yet, there is tremendous upside potential.”
Already a familiar presence at the college, Ayers lives in Oconee County with his wife, two daughters and son. Those who know him best say the same qualities that made him an effective leader of the Tull School—a robust work ethic, attention to detail, and a commitment to excellence—should serve him well in his new role.
“Ben is an accomplished researcher, instructor and administrator, and I really respect all of those feats; however, what is most impressive about Ben is how his solid fundamental beliefs guide his life,” said Tim Keadle, president of the UGA Alumni Association. “His life is meaningfully lived, in his work and personally, and all of us around him are the benefactors.”
Accounting professor Michael Bamber, the Harold M. Heckman Chair of Public Accounting who has worked with Ayers since he came to Terry, noted that Ayers has made significant contributions to both the school’s research and teaching efforts since he began.
“Ben’s heartfelt interest in the School of Accounting and its students is obvious to all. When faced with a request or initiative that can help the School move forward, Ben looks for a path to ‘yes.’ He also values the unique contributions that each individual – whether student, faculty, or friend and supporter – makes,” Bamber said. “Students quickly perceive that he cares about each student as an individual, and that he wants to help each student achieve their own potential. Similarly, his focus with faculty has always been centered on what he can do to help each individual reach their maximum potential. He has fostered a unique culture where we each celebrate each others’ successes.”
Ayers has received 11 teaching awards at the school, college and university levels, including the Richard B. Russell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching. He has published articles in many of the most-respected journals in the field, and is one of only two professors to be awarded both the American Accounting Association’s Competitive Manuscript Award and the American Taxation Association’s Outstanding Manuscript Award, which he has received twice. He recently was recognized as being in the top 5 percent of the most productive accounting researchers over the past 50 years.
A certified public accountant in Alabama, Ayers holds a Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin. He received his bachelor’s degree in accounting and master’s in taxation from the University of Alabama.