Giving back is an integral part of life for Ponte Vedra residents Richard and Amy Wallman.
Last month, the couple donated $75 million to the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, the place where they met and that helped them on their road to success.
“Going to Chicago gave me confidence early in my career,” Richard Wallman said. “When you’re starting out, that confidence was very important.”
Richard graduated from Booth in 1974 and began his career with Ford Motor Company. He later served as chief financial officer and senior vice president of Honeywell International, Inc., and its predecessor AlliedSignal. Amy began her career at Ernst & Young after graduating from UC Booth in 1975. She was also director at Omnicare from 2004-2015.
Their donation to Booth will be used for scholarships that focus on increasing diversity, the Wallmans said, as well as for research and co-curricular programming. The Wallmans explained that they gave school Dean Madhav Rajan latitude to spend it where he thinks it’s most beneficial.
The school’s academic high honors distinction will also be named in honor of the Wallmans. Graduating MBA students and alumni who earn high honors at Booth will be known as Amy and Richard F. Wallman Scholars.
“It’s exciting because each graduation, we’ll go to the event if there’s a Wallman Scholar,” Richard said. “I never went to my college or Chicago graduation, so it will be nice going to graduation.”
The couple, who moved to the First Coast 16 years ago, has been considering making the large donation to UC Booth for some time. The Wallmans said hearing Rajan’s plans for the school sealed the deal.
“We knew we had to be doing something and kind of just the question of when do you pull the trigger and the timing, and the dean had some great ideas,” Amy said.
Plus, they wanted to be able to enjoy what the donation would ultimately accomplish.
“I think by doing it now you get to see the fruits of what you’ve done, as opposed to waiting until you’re dead,” Richard said.
The Wallmans also said their goal for the contribution is that it doesn’t just help students go to school or help while they’re in school, but extends to the rest of their lives.
“(My hope) is that the school continues to be a great business school, and produces graduates who make a difference,” Richard said. “Not just in the business world, but in other ways. That they take their success and create good outcomes because of their success.”
Amy said she’s already seeing change at UC Booth in students wanting to give back rather than just focusing on their own business success.
“A few of the most recent graduates from Chicago have gone into the nonprofit world,” she said. “It’s very different coming out of business school, but again, it’s a generation that’s been brought up to be aware of what’s happening in society and to help out, so if we can help fray the cost to keep them going to school for that, then that’s great.”
The opportunity to receive a college education is significant to the Wallmans, who have provided 58 scholarships to three different universities: UC Booth; Richard’s alma mater, Vanderbilt; and Amy’s alma mater, Boston University.
“We’re strong believers in education and providing tools for somebody to gain what we gained,” Amy said.
Amy recalls being one of the few women attending business school in the mid-1970s, which is part of the reason the scholarships the Wallmans have given have been exclusively to women.
For Richard, granting scholarships to women was more of a family consideration.
“At Vanderbilt, my mother and her three sisters went there, so we made it (scholarships) for females to honor them,” he said.
Regardless of who the scholarships are granted to, the Wallmans like to know how the recipients fare after graduation.
“The only request we make of our recipients is that once a year they send us an email or call us and let us know what’s going on,” Richard said. “That sort of makes our day when we get their email, because they’re very nice people. They’re always grateful, but knowing that we had a small impact on their life makes us feel good.”
At the end of the day, the Wallmans feel it’s important to make a difference when and where you can.
“We knew we wanted to give back because life’s been very good to us, and we wanted to share our good fortune,” Richard said. “I think it’s a responsibility that when the sun shines on you, you should help others.”