$10 million gift for UMass Amherst Isenberg School of Management's entrepreneurship program

Last modified: Thursday, April 24, 2014
AMHERST — A $10 million gift from longtime University of Massachusetts supporters will help create a Center for Entrepreneurship at the Isenberg School of Management.

Douglas and Diana Berthiaume recently made the donation that will establish the Douglas and Diana Berthiaume Center for Entrepreneurship. The center, which will use existing space at the school, is expected to be a hub for a network of scholars, innovators and entrepreneurs. It will feature collaborations with the Colleges of Natural Sciences and Engineering and will have a mission of supporting research, education and practices that transform innovative ideas into business realities, according to university officials.

Mark Fuller, dean of the Isenberg School of Management, said many business schools promote entrepreneurship, but the UMass center will be special in its ambition to have a campus-wide reach and, as it develops in the coming years, a national reputation.

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“This is a big part of what any business school should be. It’s our responsibility to help create the next generation of business professionals,” Fuller said Wednesday. “What we would like to be is a significant national player in this dimension.”

When he became dean in 2009, Fuller said, Isenberg had only one faculty member working in entrepreneurship, and there was an obvious need for the school to have a “larger footprint” in that area.

“So we’ve been working on this concept for several years, sharing it with Doug as we moved through the design phases, and he decided he and Diana wanted to be a part of it,” Fuller said.

Douglas Berthiaume is a 1971 management school graduate of UMass and chairman, president and CEO of Waters Corp. a Milford laboratory analytical instrument and software company with 5,000 employees. He said in a statement that he has become familiar with the work being done on the Amherst campus over the past two decades.

“I have seen firsthand how great research, a committed faculty and private partnerships give students a richer learning environment,” Berthiaume said. “Diana and I look forward to seeing the impact this new center will have across the university.”

In 2006, the Berthiaumes made a $5 million gift to support Isenberg School initiatives. Douglas Berthiaume also serves as co-chairman of UMass Rising, the university’s $300 million campaign to support scholarships, faculty, research and facilities.

“He’s really been a leader for us in many ways,” said UMass spokesman Edward Blaguszewski. “This is a great and wonderful gift.”

The $10 million is equal to the largest private donation the university has ever received, Blaguszewski said. That previous gift, from an anonymous donor, is being used toward the cost of constructing the Champions Center basketball facility on Commonwealth Avenue.

The money will go toward hiring an executive director, a director of mentoring and coaching programs and a director of outreach at the new center, Fuller said.

Entrepreneur in residence

The Douglas and Diana Berthiaume Center for Entrepreneurship mission will focus on education, research and practice, Fuller said.

There will be credit courses for students, and mini-courses and workshops geared toward practicing professionals. Researchers will focus on “stimulating new thinking about entrepreneurship,” he said.

Among the practical aspects of the center will be internship programs, an incubator space and coaching support for new-venture start-ups available to students and faculty, support for small business development and an entrepreneur-in-residence program.

“We’ll bring in entrepreneurs — they’ll come to campus, teach classes and engage with students,” Fuller said. “It’s the merging of the external and the internal.”

The center will achieve its mission to have a campus-wide impact by partnering with researchers in the Colleges of Natural Sciences and Engineering to use their innovative ideas in new businesses.

“We’re in an ideal situation to take advantage of this — we have great science minds developing great ideas,” he said. “As new innovations come out of those colleges, the question is, how do you turn it into a product?”

Students and faculty can meet in an incubator space to discuss the issue, explore marketing possibilities, and take advantage of resources such as mentorship from experienced entrepreneurs, Fuller said.

The center will focus on starting businesses in the areas of high tech, low tech and social entrepreneurship — businesses that do good instead of just turning a profit, Fuller said, such as those in the sustainability field. “There’s a segment of students who want to impact society as well as be successful,” he said.

The university has an Innovation Challenge, an annual competition for students and recent alumni to pitch business plans and win funding. But Fuller said that the Douglas and Diana Berthiaume Center for Entrepreneurship will add new competitions, such as an elevator pitch contest.

“We want to build on the Innovation Challenge and expand competitions. We see some of them having a national reach,” he said. “Five years down the line, we could maybe host a national competition.”

UMass Chancellor Kumble R. Subbaswamy said in a statement that he is grateful for the gift and that it will assist research on campus that can be used to improve business in the state, nation and world.

“It speaks volumes about the education Doug Berthiaume received here in Amherst and about his understanding of the power of education to foster innovation in the real world,” Subbaswamy said.

Douglas Berthiaume and Waters Corp. have also supported the university with scientific instrument donations, including a $450,000 chromatography/mass spectrometer, and by financial and program support to the Integrated Concentration in Sciences program.

Rebecca Everett can be reached at reverett@gazettenet.com.