The Syracuse University community mourns the loss of the Whitman School’s Professor Emeritus Mohamed “Mo” Onsi, who passed away in November. As a member of the faculty, he made a significant impact over his 42 years at the school, widening the approach to business studies, establishing an accounting program for graduate students and implementing a more rigorous MBA program. Onsi retired in 2007.
Born in Egypt, Onsi studied accounting at Cairo University, where he later became an instructor, while also working as a cost accounting consultant. He came to the U.S. in 1960 to attend graduate school at the University of Illinois, where he earned both a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in accounting. It was there that he met his wife, Patricia; they were married for 56 years.
The couple relocated from Illinois to California, when Onsi accepted an assistant professorship at California State University. But just a year later he left the west coast for Syracuse University after he met Robert G. Cox, former dean of what was then called the College of Business Administration. Onsi was intrigued by Cox’s vision to create a highly competitive graduate program and expand the business school. Eager to be a part of the plan, Onsi came to Syracuse as an assistant professor, lured by a challenge he once said was “too great to resist.”
At the time, he and his wife decided they would stay in Syracuse for just four years before returning to California. But, four years turned into four decades, as Onsi took on more responsibilities for transforming the business school.
Of joining the University, Onsi was once quoted as saying, “During these years (mid-1960s), management skills were becoming highly prized, not only in business but in all organizations.”
His contributions came to fruition when the College of Busines Administration became the School of Management in 1970, offering a broader approach to studying business in order to prepare students for professional management positions in any given field. Some of Onsi’s most impactful accomplishments included pioneering joint degree programs with several other schools within the University, working with his colleagues to establish an M.S. program in accounting, revising the existing MBA program, as well as establishing an independent MBA program that was the first fully accredited program of its kind; and helping to develop a Ph.D. program in accounting.
Onsi also participated in research in strategic cost management systems, international accounting, financial controls and more, while also acting as a consultant to many high-profile clients, including NASA. He was also active in a number of professional associations, publishing over 30 research papers during his career and serving on the editorial boards of a number of academic journals. In honor of his commitment to the profession, he was inducted into the American Accounting Association Hall of Fame, Northeast Region, in 1992.
“Mo touched a lot of people’s lives in his 42 years at Syracuse. He taught over 5,000 students and supervised 25 doctoral dissertations. He was a first-class researcher and was the chair of the accounting department for a total of 13 years, says Professor of Accounting Joseph Comprix, chair, Joseph I. Lubin School of Accounting. “Mo had a warm, engaging personality, and he was a lot of fun to interact with. We will all miss him.”
“We grieve the loss of a Whitman giant who contributed so richly to building the community we all benefit from today,” adds Whitman School Dean Eugene Anderson.
Onsi is survived by his wife, along with his three children, Douglas (Nicole) Onsi, Robert (Ellison) Onsi and Ellen (David) Bonito, and six grandchildren.
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