48th Dies Natalis: honorary doctorate

'Game changer' Christian Leuz conducts groundbreaking research at the intersection of accounting and finance

He was thinking about joining the family business, but during his studies of Business Economics, he discovered that he preferred research. What followed is an impressive academic career. Professor Christian Leuz has received no shortage of awards; during the 2024 Dies Natalis, Maastricht University will add an honorary doctorate. “It’s a wonderful recognition of my work.”

There was always a researcher in me,” Leuz says. “But it took a while to find him.” And he did, while studying in the US for a year during his degree in Business Economics at Goethe University in Frankfurt. “I was offered a scholarship to the University of Wisconsin at Madison. There, I took a class for master’s and doctoral students covering research studies and discovered my passion for academia.”

Grandmother

Back in Germany, his family was hoping he would join the family business. His doctoral thesis supervisor in Frankfurt felt this would be a loss for the academic world. He even turned to Leuz’s grandmother, who ran the company, trying to convince her that he would be better off in academia. His brother joined the family business and Leuz concentrated on his PhD. He still has to smile when he thinks about this and notes: “The family business is better off with my brother.”

Having seen first-hand that the US was an excellent place for research, he first applied to be a visiting scholar at the University of Rochester in New York and later to the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. “It was a fantastic opportunity for me as a young scholar, and I was very fortunate that they gave it to somebody from outside the States.”

After his brief return to Germany to finish his habilitation, Leuz spent five years at the Wharton School as an assistant professor, after which he was promoted to full professor at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business in 2006. This type of career progress usually takes close to ten years.

 

Authority

Initially, he thought he would only stay in the US for a few years, and then continue his career in Germany. But the plan changed. He has now lived and worked in America for more than 20 years, becoming a recognised authority in accounting and finance. Leuz studies the role of disclosure and transparency in capital and other markets, the effects of reporting and banking regulation, international accounting, as well as corporate governance.

I couldn’t make up my mind between accounting and finance,” he says. “Both are closely linked and influence one another. At the intersection of fields lie many interesting research questions. By being in both fields, I often had a different or broader perspective, which helped my research.”

 

Highly cited researcher

This approach yields valuable results — that much is clear from the game-changing nature of Leuz’s work. He has been named a ‘highly cited researcher’ by Thomson Reuters, an American–Canadian company specialising in information services including the scientific sector. He was also included in Thomson Reuters’ list of The World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds from 2014 to 2018. “It’s an enormous honour. Doing research is lonely: you spend all day writing at your computer, and it takes a great deal of effort to get your work published. So when one’s research garners this type of recognition, it’s very satisfying.”

About the 48th Dies Natalis
Friday 26 January 2024 marks the 48th anniversary of Maastricht University. During the celebratory gathering at the St. Janskerk, Professor Robert Dur will give an inspiring keynote lecture. Rector Pamela Habibović will award the Wynand Wijnen Education Prize, the Dissertation Prize, and the Master’s Student Prizes. Our very own FASoS graduate and singer-songwriter Josh Island will perform during the ceremony. This year, we also have the privilege of presenting two honorary doctorates: one jointly awarded to Professors Liesbet Hooghe and Gary Marks, and another to Professor Christian Leuz. More information

Over the years, Leuz has also advised several regulators and standard setters. “The policy relevance of my research has always been important to me. As academics, we are given a tremendous amount of freedom, that’s why I find it important to give back to society. By sharing the implications of our work, we can hopefully make the world a little better.”

 

Classic BMW

Since 2005, Leuz has lived in Chicago with his wife and two children. He feels at home in the US, but can still be found regularly in his native country. “My work brings me to Europe a lot, and whenever I can, I try to make time to visit family and friends in Germany. And to do a road trip in the classic car I share with my brother — a beautiful BMW from the 1970s. It’s one of my passions aside from research.”


Text: Martina Langeveld

Motivation for awarding the honorary doctorate
The Maastricht University School of Business and Economics has awarded Professor Christian Leuz an honorary doctorate for his pioneering work in the fields of accounting and finance. UM is not alone in its appreciation of his work. Thomson Reuters, an information conglomerate, named Leuz a ‘highly cited researcher’ and included him from 2014 to 2018 in its list of The World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds. His work has appeared in top scientific journals and he has received a number of prizes and awards—a list of achievements that UM believes ought to include an honorary doctorate.

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