May ’17 Newsletter: Trustee Spotlight- Mike Riordan

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Simon Davis commercial portrait shoot by Lindsay J. C. Lack Copyright Office # 1-7415445

Trustee Mike Riordan is finishing up his sixth and final year with the Jefferson Trust. A Double Hoo, Mike was an Economics major who completed his undergraduate degree in 1996 and returned for his MBA from the Darden School in 2003. When reflecting on his decision to choose UVA, Mike said “Growing up in Pittsburgh…UVA wasn’t on the radar of many people [around me]. However, my father had attended law school at UVA in the early 1970s and so he introduced us to the school during a spring break trip one year. My sister and I both fell in love with the school and I was lucky enough to be able to get in early admission…so I didn’t really consider anywhere else seriously.”

Upon his return to UVA in 2003, Mike met his wife Elizabeth. He describes meeting Elizabeth as one of his fondest memories from his time at the University. “We were both in section A together first year [at Darden] and started dating our second year. We got married a couple years later. Ironically, she is also a Double Hoo, having been in the same 1996 graduating class. We didn’t know each other at the time,” said Mike.

Elizabeth and Mike have been longtime supporters of the University across various programs, but the Trust offered Mike a chance to be more directly involved than he had been since graduating. Discussing his experience with the Trust, Mike said, “I think the thing that was compelling to me at the time (and what is still very compelling about the Trust today) is both the ability to help decide where your money will go, as well as being involved on a very granular level with what’s going on at the school.  The scope of the grants that we consider, including the ones that may not ultimately be funded, provide amazing insight into what’s going on at one of the best universities in the world.  I can’t think of any other initiative or philanthropic endeavor that provides that level of exposure and insight into an organization as dynamic as UVA.”

For many years, Mike has served as the Chairman of the Trust’s Communications Committee, setting strategy for effectively communicating the message of the Trust to students, faculty, staff, and alumni of the University. “I came in at an interesting time when the Trust had been firmly established by the visionary folks who got it off the ground, but was really still in its formative stages. We have done a tremendous amount of governance and organizational work in the last six years, which I think has helped the Trust mature into the dynamic asset it has become for the University.  When I first started, we didn’t even have a [Communications] committee.  Our marketing and communications efforts were ad hoc and not particularly organized.  The work that Wayne, Kaye, Amy, Colleen, and Adib have done since then to help promote the Trust and educate the various stakeholders about the Trust is amazing to look back on, considering where we started.”

Mike recognizes a 2013 grant for President Sullivan’s Data Science Institute as one of the most impactful grants the Trust has provided the University. “That grant stands out from a couple of different perspectives. The first is that it was and is a very important initiative for the University and is one that will continue to pay dividends for years to come.  It perfectly fit the model we strive to achieve of providing seed money for something that can expand into a sustainable, impactful program.  The second reason it stands out was that this grant was relatively unique in terms of our grant cycle and process and showed that the Trust had matured to the point of being able to be a resource for key stakeholders across the University to help get big things done.”

Looking forward, Mike is most excited about the composition of the Board of Trustees. “It is an incredibly accomplished, thoughtful, and engaging group of people whom I have learned a great deal from and have enjoyed getting to know and count as good friends. The fact that the Trust continues to attract such high quality, generous individuals makes me very excited about the future of the Trust and what it can still develop into moving forward.”

Though we will miss having Mike on the Board, the Trust is incredibly grateful for Mike’s leadership and involvement over the years. The organization has enjoyed remarkable growth with Mike serving as Chair of the Communications Committee, and has a clear direction for continuing along that trajectory.