UMass Board of Trustees and MFS Investment Chair Shares Advice with Business Students

Chancellor Jacquie Moloney, Dean Sandra Richtermeyer, Rob Manning and Kristen Reardon in the Zoom chat
UMass Board of Trustees Chair Rob Manning, bottom right, participated in an executive leadership webinar with, clockwise from top left, Chancellor Jacquie Moloney, Manning School of Business Dean Sandra Richtermeyer and junior business major Kristen Reardon.

By Ed Brennen

It was billed as an “executive leadership webinar.”  

But against the backdrop of a global pandemic, during a time of so much social, political and economic uncertainty, Rob Manning ’84, ’11 (H) actually delivered a much-needed pep talk to the nearly 300 Manning School of Business students who participated in a recent hour-long Q&A on Zoom.

Manning, who is chair of the UMass Board of Trustees, executive chair of MFS Investment Management and namesake of the school where he earned his business administration degree 36 years ago, said the coronavirus pandemic has exposed some “troublesome issues” in our society — issues caused by rapidly changing technology.

“Technology is disrupting society in ways that no one could have envisioned,” he said. “It’s creating a division in our country, where income is unequal and opportunities are becoming difficult for the average person.”  

UMass Lowell students are well positioned to succeed in this changing world, Manning said, in part because of their access to the university’s renowned engineering and computer science programs.

“If there’s one thing you can do to differentiate yourself, it’s to get that technical background,” said Manning, who credits his minor in computer science with launching his career at MFS. “You’re blessed to be on one of the greatest technology campuses in the world. So use it for your benefit, like I did.”

While higher education has been hit hard by the pandemic, Manning praised Chancellor Jacquie Moloney and Manning School Dean Sandra Richtermeyer for their leadership during these challenging times. He noted that undergraduate and graduate enrollment in the business school are both up this fall, which is “an anomaly” in the nation and a testament to Richtermeyer’s “entrepreneurial leadership and passion.”
“You’re blessed to be on one of the greatest technology campuses in the world. So use it for your benefit, like I did.” -Rob Manning ’84, ’11 (H)

Manning said the key to healing the country’s racial and political strife is education, which is becoming harder for people to afford.

To help address this, Manning has taken the lead on a new online education initiative called UMass Global. Designed for working adults, the platform is a partnership between the UMass system and Brandman University in Irvine, Calif.

“It will help transform higher education by increasing accessibility and affordability for those who don’t have the opportunities that all of you do,” said Manning, who recently announced that he plans to retire from MFS in 2022. He said he will focus his energy on UMass Global for the next decade.

Just as students have had to adapt to remote learning during the pandemic, Manning said flexibility will be key in their journey as lifelong learners.

“There’s no such thing as earning a traditional degree anymore — nothing is traditional anymore. You have to find a way that makes sense for you to be successful,” said Manning, a first-generation college student who encouraged other first-generation students to take advantage of resources like the River Hawk Scholars Academy.
“Your education doesn’t stop when you earn that degree from the Manning School of Business. That’s just the beginning,” he added. “You need to continue to invest in yourself. You need to see how things are changing and keep yourself prepared so you can compete and be successful.”

Junior business major Kristen Reardon of Medfield, Mass., who has worked as a co-op at MFS since January, said Manning is an “awesome example” of what UML students can achieve.

“He worked his way from the ground up,” said Reardon, who, as co-leader of Women in Finance and a member of the Joy Tong Women in Business student organization, was invited to introduce Moloney during the Q&A. “It goes to show that all the opportunities are there for us. We just need to take them and want to do it ourselves.”