Isenberg Community Mourns the Passing of School Namesake Eugene M. Isenberg '50
March 20, 2014
The Isenberg School of Management mourns the passing of Eugene M. Isenberg '50, '00H who died on March 16, 2014. For 25 years, Gene was chairman and CEO of Nabors Industries, a world leader in gas and petroleum drilling. Gene's gift with his wife, Ronnie, to the then School of Management was the largest contribution from an individual in UMass Amherst's history. The gift brought the Isenberg alumni community together with unprecedented energy in the school's campaign to build its 42,000-square-foot Harold Alfond Management Center wing. In 1998, the school became the Eugene M. Isenberg School of Management in honor of Gene's generosity and leadership.
"Gene Isenberg was a tremendous advocate for education and it went well beyond his obvious support for UMass Amherst and the Isenberg School of Management," observes Isenberg dean, Mark Fuller. "During our very first meeting after I became dean, Gene made the point that 'education is at least part of the solution to any problem,' a statement I now use regularly when talking with alumni. We have all benefited from his life-changing passion and commitment, and we're going to miss him dearly.
"UMass provided me with the platform to further my education and social mobility," Gene told a gathering of Isenberg School students and alumni in the late 1990s. In focusing his financial support on UMass Amherst and the School of Management rather than Princeton University, where he earned a master's degree in economics, the Chelsea, Massachusetts native explained, "I knew it would have a greater impact at UMass."
An Interdisciplinary Vision. A second hallmark of Gene Isenberg's vision for the school and the university was his championing of interdisciplinary initiatives that bridged business, science, and technology. He accomplished that through scholarships, endowed chairs, and visionary support for campus activities.
As the chairman and CEO of a technology-focused company, Gene placed a premium on scientists and technologists who understood business, and managers who understood technology. To that end, the Isenbergs, beginning in the mid-1990s, created annual renewable scholarships-The Isenberg Awards-for outstanding graduate students at Isenberg and the colleges of science and engineering. More than 100 students who have combined management with science and engineering have received annual Isenberg Awards of $10,000. For nearly two decades, Gene visited UMass Amherst each year to meet with and offer personal insights to his scholarship recipients. In 2006, the Isenbergs created a second set of annual scholarships, for up to eight juniors with status in both Isenberg and Commonwealth Honors College.
To drive interdisciplinary education on campus, the Isenbergs established three endowed chairs-in the School of Management, the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, and the College of Engineering. The first chair, the Isenberg Professor of Integrative Studies, was initially held by Soren Bisgaard, a professor of operations management at Isenberg. The chair is currently held by management professor Steven W. Floyd, who is Eugene M. Isenberg Professor of Innovation and Entrepreneurship.
At the time of his death, Gene was one of the four co-chairs of UMass Rising, the campus's $300 million sesquicentennial fundraising campaign. He was also a board member and former president of the UMass Amherst Foundation. In 2012, Gene was the inaugural recipient of the University's Legacy of Leadership Award. The accolade recognizes visionaries who have transformed organizations while championing public service, social diversity, and quality of life improvements. In 2000, he received an honorary doctorate from the University.
Professional History. Gene was chairman of Nabors from 1987 until 2012 and its CEO from 1987 until 2011. He was chairman emeritus at the time of his death. He joined the firm (then known as Anglo Energy), immediately distinguishing himself as one of America's most gifted business strategists and deal makers. Under his leadership, Nabors became a dominant player in gas and petroleum drilling markets in Alaska and the lower 48 U.S. states. The firm also excelled in Canada, Central and South America, the North Sea, the Middle East, Asia, Africa, and countries in the former Soviet Union. Gene was also a director of the American Stock Exchange, NASDAQ, and the National Association of Securities Dealers.
Before Nabors, Gene was co-CEO of NorthStar Tubular, a trader in oil country tubular goods and chairman of Genimar, a steel trading and building products manufacturer. He also held management positions with Exxon.
Wide-ranging Philanthropy. Gene's generosity reached well beyond higher education. He was founder and principal sponsor of the Parkside School in Manhattan, which serves learning-disabled children. In Palm Beach, Florida, he was a director and benefactor of Home Safe, which provides physical facilities for abused children, and a supporter of both LIFE Disabled Veterans and Massachusetts General Hospital. Gene was also an enthusiastic contributor to the performing arts in New York City and Palm Beach.