Former Comptroller General of the United States and Head of the General Accounting Office
Charles A. Bowsher, who passed away on September 30, 2022, led a career of distinguished service – both to public institutions and the private sector.
In 1996, Bowsher completed a 15-year term of office as the Comptroller General of the United States and head of the General Accounting Office (GAO). With a congressional mandate to audit, evaluate, or investigate virtually all federal operations, GAO under his leadership had become increasingly involved in some of the most important issues of the day, producing in-depth reports both at the specific request of Congress and on its own initiative. GAO issued major studies on matters ranging from health care reform and the savings and loan banking crisis to the federal budget deficit and efforts to “reinvent government.” Meanwhile, the agency continued to monitor “high-risk” governmental activities that could lead to major losses from waste, fraud, abuse, or mismanagement.
Bowsher’s appointment as Comptroller General by President Ronald Reagan in 1981 capped a background of experience in both government and corporate endeavors. He was associated with Arthur Andersen & Company for 25 years, except for a four-year period between 1967 and 1971, when he served as Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Financial Management. His work in that role earned him Distinguished Public Service Awards from both the Department of the Navy and the Department of Defense.
After retiring as Comptroller General, Bowsher joined the corporate boards of American Express Bank, DeVry Inc., SI International, and the Washington Mutual Investors Fund. He was appointed as a public member of the board of the National Association of Securities Dealers, which oversees the NASDAQ system and the over-the-counter securities markets. From 1997 to 2001, Bowsher was chairman of the Public Oversight Board, an independent, private-sector body that monitors and reports of the self-regulatory programs and activities of the SEC Practice Section of the Division of CPA Firms of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. He also served on the advisory board of the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB) and Glass Lewis & Co.
From 1997 to 2000, Bowsher served on the board of National Steel Company; from 1999 to 2001, on the board of Newport News shipbuilding (now part of Northrop); and from 1999 to 2003, as treasurer and trustee of the Washington National Cathedral Foundation. In addition to these and other directorships and board activities, he was a trustee of the Center for Naval Analyses, the United States Navy Memorial Foundation, the Logistics Management Institute, the Concord Coalition, the Hitachi Foundation, and the Washington Hospital Center, and served on advisory boards at several universities.
Born in Elkhart, Indiana on May 30, 1931, Bowsher graduated from the University of Illinois in 1953. He served two-years in the U.S. Army and received an M.B.A. degree in 1956 from the University of Chicago. He was the recipient of honorary doctorates from five universities and has received official honors from Yale University, University of Chicago, Ohio State University, and the University of Illinois.