By Ed Brennen
Each of the MBA students who filed past Manning School of Business Dean Sandra Richtermeyer to have a master’s hood placed over their shoulders had a unique story. Some are just starting their careers. Others are decades in. Some came all the way from Japan for the ceremony.
But only one made a $3 million gift to UMass Lowell a month earlier to create the university’s first-ever endowed deanship.
Alumnus and longtime UML philanthropist Brian Rist ’77, ’22, ’22 (H) was among the 479 graduate business students — a Manning School record — to receive an MBA this spring. Rist delivered the keynote speech at one of the Manning School’s two graduate hooding ceremonies for master’s and Ph.D. students at the UMass Lowell Inn & Conference Center.
“I’ll always be a student so I can become a better person and a better leader,” said Rist, a first-generation college student from Stoughton, Massachusetts, who earned a bachelor’s degree in operations management from the university. He went on to found the Florida-based Storm Smart, a leading manufacturer and installer of hurricane protection products.
“A tremendous amount of our success grew from the lessons that I learned right here on this campus,” Rist told his fellow graduates.
Rist and his wife Kim ’22 (H), who were both awarded honorary degrees at Commencement, sold the company in 2020 and created the Rist Family Foundation to focus on charitable endeavors.
Following a $5 million gift to the university to support the Rist DifferenceMaker Institute and the Rist Institute for Sustainability & Energy, they made the $3 million gift in April to name Richtermeyer the inaugural Rist Family Foundation Dean of the Manning School of Business. The endowment will help business students attend conferences and competitions, join industry groups and conduct research with faculty. It will also help students struggling with financial hardship to stay in school.
“Here he was, moving the sale of his company along while learning side-by-side with you in your MBA program,” Richtermeyer said in her introduction of Rist, a member of the Manning School’s advisory board. “He’s been an amazing mentor who cares about our students so much. He gets it.”
While a master’s degree boosts earning potential (the median starting salary for an MBA grad is almost twice that of someone with a bachelor’s degree at $115,000, according to mba.com), Rist said that wasn’t his motivation.
“I’m not going to get paid more tomorrow because I got my master’s degree, but I believe I certainly will be richer for it,” he said.
Rist advised his fellow graduates to find a “higher purpose” in their work, plan carefully and never forget the importance of giving back.
During the first hooding ceremony, four of the Manning School’s eight Ph.D. graduates — Dan Hu (finance), Peiyi Jia (entrepreneurship), Murtaza Nasir (management science) and Roberto Santos (entrepreneurship) — were recognized by Ph.D. Program Director Berk Talay.
Outstanding Student Awards went to Brian Bombaci (M.S. in accounting), Eduardo Gonzalez (M.S. in finance) and Ryan Joliat (M.S. in business analytics).
On the second night, four students received the Gary Mucica Outstanding MBA Student Award for finishing with perfect 4.0 grade point averages: Joshua Zubricki, Nicole Champigny, Nabihah Khalid and Haryanto Hokianto.
More than two dozen MBA students from the Manning School’s Abitus partnership in Japan traveled to campus to take part in the hooding ceremony and Commencement. Reina Kaneko received the Outstanding Abitus Student Award.
Keijiro Shintani said his MBA from the Manning School will help him in the venture capital world. As deputy general manager of tech investment at Mitsubishi UFJ Capital in Tokyo, he decides which tech startups in Japan and Israel the company should invest in.
“I have to be a board member and help them with management, organization, marketing — everything,” he said. “I needed to study something for everything, which is why I joined the MBA program.”
After completing the program entirely online during the pandemic, Shintani was happy he could travel to campus for the hooding ceremony and Commencement.
“It was very important to be here,” he said. “It’s nice to feel the atmosphere and see the university. This is a really interesting experience.”