“When I found out that our offices were literally across the street from each other,” Amanda Signorelli, BSBA’13, said, “we had to meet.” The newly named CEO of Chicago-based TechWeek, a conference and media company focused on building startup communities, couldn’t wait to meet Rick Weisberg, BSBA’81. After all, he had made it possible for her to graduate from Washington University.
Signorelli had just been named one of the Top 20 Female Entrepreneurs to Watch in 2017 by CIO.com and was preparing to share her success story at the Scholars in Business dinner last fall. Meeting Weisberg would provide an important piece of the story from her undergrad days.
During her sophomore year, Signorelli learned that her family was in financial straits and could not afford to pay for college; she would have to drop out of WashU. “It was terrifying,” Signorelli recalls. The prospect of leaving the school she had worked so hard to attend, and where she was happily pursuing interests in languages and entrepreneurship, was devastating.
Signorelli was unaware of the Scholars in Business Program and the generations of students, like her, that it has helped since 1979. She was overwhelmed when she learned that she qualified for a scholarship and would be able to stay in college and earn her degree at WashU. “It was amazing to see how connected the Olin network was, to sense I needed help, and they were there,” she said.
Signorelli was a recipient of the Lawrence Krulik Memorial Scholarship created in 1991 by Rick and Sheryl (BA’81) Weisberg in honor of her father. More than 25 students have benefited from the fund. Each year, the Weisbergs have received notes of appreciation and thanks from grateful Olin students, but until this past year, the Weisbergs had never actually met one of their scholarship students in person.
At their first meeting in a Chicago coffee shop, Signorelli told Rick Weisberg, “I don’t think you have a sense of just how important this scholarship was for me.” Amanda remembers the meeting as, “Very surreal. It was a really special moment for me.”
The feeling was mutual for Weisberg. “Frankly it really hit me in a very, very positive way. I was very touched that she reached out to me. I never really fully understood the impact that the scholarship had made on her and others who received it because I never saw the outcome.”
Weisberg is quick to add that he takes no credit for Amanda’s success. “If I helped her on her path that’s one thing, but you know it’s up to the individual to find their path and be successful at it.” Weisberg found his path and passion in finance while at Olin. He says he will never forget the support and encouragement he received from Dean Bob Virgil when applying to graduate school at New York University. “Dean Virgil set up an interview for me with the dean of NYU’s business school. Thanks to that conversation, I was accepted into the MBA program right out of WashU and it changed my life.”
“I’ve been involved in a lot of organizations, whether it’s been in in the theater, religious, or otherwise, but I have not found a better organization than Washington University both in terms of the purpose of donations and in terms of the operational side of the equation. The attention to detail in terms of the care that you feel from the university prior to the contribution, during the contribution, and after, it seems seamless and effortless and actually makes it a very pleasurable experience, and it’s just a great place to be a part of.” – Rick Weisberg
After 26 successful years with Goldman Sachs, Weisberg continues to work as a private investor. He has remained connected to WashU through the Eliot Society and the regional cabinet in Chicago where the Weisbergs have lived since 1988. Meeting Amanda, Weisberg admits was a learning experience. “It has re-motivated me in a very positive way to re-think my philanthropic process. When you give to a large organization you know you’re doing something good, but you never directly see the outcome. In the case of the scholarship program, you know there is a proportionate and direct impact from what you provide.”
Amanda Signorelli will never forget the impact that the Weisberg’s generous gift had on her life. And now that she has connected with the fellow alumnus and donor who made it possible, she realizes she is a part of the Olin network that will be there to support the next generation of students with time, money, mentoring, and friendship.