"Gene and Ronnie Isenberg's leadership, generosity, and energy have made an indelible mark on the School of Management, on the University of Massachusetts, and on many, many students," Isenberg School Dean Mark A. Fuller told hundreds of well-wishers in a memorial tribute to Gene Isenberg at the school on December 4. Gene, who died last March, was the school's greatest benefactor, a champion of alumni engagement in its rise to national prominence, and an advocate of interdisciplinary education among business, the sciences, and technology.
Attended by a university-wide audience, including current and past recipients of scholarships authored by the Isenbergs, the event welcomed Gene's friends and relatives, including his wife, Ronnie; their daughter Diane; her husband, David; and their children, Dylan, Carolyn, and Stefan.
UMass Amherst Chancellor Kumble Subbaswammy announced a new million-dollar scholarship endowment in Gene's honor for School of Management students from Nabors Industries, the company that Gene had transformed. And the Chancellor awarded the distinction of Honorary Alumna to Ronnie Isenberg, pledging that the university would continue to match and honor the excellence that the Isenbergs have fostered.
Speakers Voice their Appreciation
"You have given us the capacity to lead; to help others achieve their goals," former Isenberg scholarship recipient Brian Tino '11 told the gathering. The Isenberg finance and operations management graduate recalled a conversation with Gene, in which he credited much of his own success to those who had helped him along the way and to his team at Nabors Industries, the company that as Chairman and CEO he transformed into the planet's largest offshore platform oil driller. Mr. Isenberg, Tino added, emphasized that successful people should create opportunities for others by "paying forward" on behalf of future generations.
Gene was both generous and an investor, noted former Isenberg dean Tom O'Brien. In making his own signature gift that led to the Isenberg building addition, Gene insisted that the chancellor and alumni contribute equal portions. "He incentivized the alumni to "own" the building. Thousands of them contributed. Gene was an investor: We had to do our part," O'Brien recalled.
"Gene was the real deal," remarked former UMass Amherst chancellor, John Lombardi. "He wanted a campus foundation to mobilize alumni and friends. To that end, "Gene gave us a plan; he gave us leadership. . . .He knew about competition . . . about opportunities and risks. He demanded results and performance. He never let you slow down. Gene was loyal to a fault."
Business, Science, Technology
Dean Fuller introduced three UMass Amherst professors who hold endowed chairs created by Gene and Ronnie. The professors spearhead Gene's vision of graduating scientists and engineers with managerial skills and business students who understand science and technology. The three professors-Michael Malone (engineering), Lawrence Schwartz (biology), and Steven Floyd (management)-coordinate the Isenberg Awards-an annual program of renewable scholarships for graduate students on the UMass Amherst campus.
Next, Sandra Robinson, a current Isenberg scholarship recipient and Ph.D. candidate in Animal Biotechnology & Biomedical Science, told the gathering how her scholarship had "changed my career and my life." The scholarship, she noted, has given her the flexibility and added resources to develop novel therapeutics for the treatment of catheter-acquired urinary tract infections. Robinson has created her own biopharmaceutical start-up and has nearly completed licensing agreements with a larger company. "You really do make dreams come true," she told the Isenberg family.
The event also featured two videos-a message of appreciation from Nabors Industries' CEO Anthony G. Petrello and a seamless interweaving of tributes from students, faculty, and alumni. Gene and Ronnie's grandchildren also spoke: "Our family, underscored their grandson Dylan looks forward to a relationship with the Isenberg School for years to come."