Lawrence B. Sawyer

"The Father of Modern Internal Auditing"

by David MacCabe

The Sawyer Legacy web site is dedicated to the memory of “the father of modern internal auditing” -- Larry Sawyer (1911-2002). His ideas, teachings, and guidance about the profe;ssion live on.

Mr. Sawyer was an internal auditor, an attorney, a teacher, an author, an actor, a counselor to management, a family man, a friend, and a leading professional of his time. He had a profound influence on a generation of internal auditors and was a leader in The Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) especially during the 1960s through the 1990s.

For those readers under 40 years old this may seem like just another history lesson on how the profession developed over the years. I encourage you to read on as this guy Sawyer was way ahead of his time and has ideas that can help you in professional and personal interactions in today’s world. Larry’s professional efforts were prolific and included journal articles, books, videotapes, and seminar and conference presentations. Larry had a “way with words” and was articulate and often dramatic in making his logical points.

His best known work is Sawyer’s Internal Auditing: The Practice of Modern Internal Auditing now in its 6th edition. He often provided thought provoking articles for the Internal Auditor journal and a compilation is contained in The IIA’s 2004 publication entitled Sawyer’s Words of Wisdom. Larry’s philosophy and guidance on the role of internal audit was a forerunner of the current definition of internal auditing. It emphasized assisting management and the Board in achieving the organization’s objectives through well-reasoned audits, evaluations, and analyses of operational areas. He encouraged the modern internal auditor to act as a counselor to management rather than as an adversary. Larry saw auditors as active players influencing events on the field rather than Monday morning quarterbacks criticizing all degrees of errors and mistakes. He also foresaw a more desirable auditor future involving a stronger relationship with members of Audit Committee and the Board and a divorce from direct reporting to the Chief Financial Officer.

Larry often talked about “catching a manager doing something right” and providing recognition and positive reinforcement. Writing about positive observations in audit reports was rarely done until Larry started talking about the idea.

He understood and forecast the benefits of providing more balanced reporting while simultaneously building better relationships.

Sawyer was deeply aware of the psychology of interpersonal dynamics and the need for all people to receive acknowledgment and validation for relationships to prosper.

Larry Sawyer's Children's Stories

In 1979, Larry completed two children's stories that remained unpublished. When asked about them a few years later, Larry stated rather blatantly, "It is easier to get a starring role in a major motion picture than it is to get children's books published!" Larry's granddaughter Victoria Finch provided scanned in copies of the original manuscripts. They were written to be told as 'grandfarther tales.' The stories are highlighted here for everyone to enjoy.

Hear the reading of Larry's stories of Tommy the Sea-Going Tiger and Malcolm the Mouse, Private Eye

Love Songs for Esther to be published May 1, 2013: Larry wrote three poems a year for his beloved Esther: one for Valentines Day, one for her Birthday, and one for their Anniversary. Their daughters Barbara Sawyer Witt and Linda Sawyer Kuhns have selected twenty of their favorites for publication in this first eBook volume Love Songs for Esther.

Barbara and Linda went through their family photographs and selected photos for the period when the poems were penned. The collection of the poems, verses as Larry called them, along with the family photos portray a wonderful dimension to the man known to most as The Father of Modern Internal Auditing.

View sample pages of five of the poems included in the first volume of Love Songs for Esther.

Sawyer on Internal Auditing - 1983: This five tape video series was the flagship for the IIA's Media Assisted Programs endeavor, pioneering the audio and video endeavors of the IIA's educational products, produced in 1983.

View the clips from the IIA demo tape of the series which contains quick highlights from the twelve segments of the full five tape series. Anyone who did not have the pleasure to meet Larry or attend one of his courses or speeches will be sure to understand from the passion and confidence Larry exhibited in his presentations why he was known as "The Father of Modern Internal Auditing."

View segments from the Sawyer on Internal Auditing DEMO tape

Larry's philosophy permeated his preaching and preceded by many years The IIA’s Standard 2410.A2 encouraging internal auditors “to acknowledge satisfactory performance in engagement communications.”

Larry’s influence over the years ultimately translated to a defining moment for the profession and especially for manybaby boomer auditors in search of their place in the world of business. He made internal auditing more relevant and more interesting through a sharp focus on operational or performance auditing. He strongly encouraged looking beyond financial statements and financial-related auditing into areas such as purchasing, warehousing and distribution, human resources, information technology, facilities management, customer service, field operations, and program management.

Larry’s logical and clear writings and speeches helped many gravitate towards understanding and enjoying internal auditing as a profession rather than just a job. His philosophical approach placed many audit professionals on a path of more cooperation with and acceptance by management and the Board. This approach helped catapult the chief audit executive into the role of a respected and knowledgeable adviser who was thought to be reasonable, objective, and concerned about helping the organization achieve the stated goals. All of the articles in the Sawyer Legacy web site will provide ideas and information based on Larry Sawyer’s philosophy and principles.

A great university has an inscription etched into the building that “The past is prologue.” There is much we can learn from Mr. Sawyer’s impressive legacy of relevant and insightful writings and teachings.


David MacCabe
Internal Auditor/CAE (30+years)
Larry's Friend and Follower

Moving force behind the creation and publication of "Sawyer's Words of Wisdom"