Philippine accounting pioneer Washington Z. SyCip (LLD, honoris causa, 2001) passed away last October 7 from an apparent heart attack en route to Vancouver. He was 96.
A staunch supporter of Philippine development and education, SyCip briefly attended the University of the Philippines before transferring to the University of Sto. Tomas, where he graduated with an accounting degree, summa cum laude, at the age of 17. He took a master’s degree and passed the CPA examination at 18 but was too young to be given a professional license, so he flew to the United States to take a PhD at Columbia University, where he was overtaken by the war. He joined the US Army, which assigned him to Calcutta to break Japanese codes as a cryptographer.
Upon his return to Manila in 1946, he established what would later become Sycip, Gorres & Velayo. SGV later grew into the country’s largest accounting firm and one of the region’s leaders in the profession. He also founded the Asian Institute of Management (AIM) in 1968, and later sat on the board of leading Philippine and international corporations and foundations, giving his valued counsel to generations of Filipino and foreign leaders.
He retired in 1996 but continued his civic and philanthropic work, focusing on basic education, microenterprises, public health, and poverty alleviation.
SyCip made generous donations to UP, which in 2001 awarded him an honorary Doctorate of Laws degree. In 2012, the Zuellig Group spearheaded the establishment of a Washington SyCip Garden of Native Trees behind the UP Carillon in his honor.
In 2009, the SGV Foundation and AIM launched his authorized biography Wash: Only a Bookkeeper, written by UP professor and now Vice President for Public Affairs Dr. Jose Dalisay Jr.
“More than the pioneer and titan of Philippine accounting that many knew him to be, Washington SyCip was a tireless advocate of Filipino development and culture, a firm believer in the Filipino’s ability and resourcefulness to succeed even in the most difficult circumstances, with adequate support and proper leadership. Despite the American citizenship he had to accept in a time of war, he thought and acted as a true global Filipino,” Dr. Dalisay would note upon SyCip’s passing.