Alum’s donation launches ‘business of the arts’ minor

An Olin alumnus is providing $1 million in seed funding to launch a new “business of the arts” minor as a way to give back to his alma mater—with a little inspiration from his daughter’s WashU fashion design experience.

Richard Ritholz, BSBA ’84, his wife Linda were on hand Sunday, April 15, when Dean Mark Taylor announced his gift during the Shakespeare at Olin event.

“As a result of the vision leadership in the generosity of Linda and Rich, we are going to launch a minor in the business of the Arts in the fall,” Dean Taylor said in making the announcement. “He’s a great friend to the school.”

The new minor  will be operated at Olin—like the existing minor in the business of sports—and will be open to undergraduates across the WashU campus. Students will be required to fulfill 15 credits in a specified curriculum of courses, some of which will be new classes still in development for this program.

The first students will be able to enroll in the program in the upcoming fall semester.

“We know the university has a wealth of incredibly talented young artists, musicians, writers, and designers,” said William Bottom, Joyce and Howard Wood Distinguished Professor of Organizational Behavior and chair of the BSBA curriculum committee. “By providing them with a basic understanding of business and some critical skills, we can prepare them to excel in their fast-changing and supremely competitive fields.”

Ritholz’s donation will support creating new courses, offering experiential learning opportunities in the arts and design, providing scholarship funding and internship stipends, and paying for faculty members to teach and publicize the program.

“We always knew that when we had the means to give back, we would do that,” said Ritholz, who was honored last week with Olin’s Distinguished Alumni Award. “Being able to be philanthropic has always been an important goal for my wife and me.”

Ritholz, an equity partner at New York City-based hedge fund Elliott Management Corporation, has for many years funded scholarships for Olin  students and remains in regular contact as an adviser and mentor for some past recipients of the Richard and Linda Ritholz Scholarship. When he decided he was in a position to do more, he reached out to discuss ideas with Dean Taylor and Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton.

One source of inspiration was the experience his daughter Madeleine, BSBA ’20, had when she first began as a fashion design major at the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts. While enriched by her experience, she last fall decided she needed a stronger business background to succeed in design. She swapped her major to business and now minors in fashion design.

Ritholz said the dean’s deep love for the arts gave him comfort that the program would be in good hands when it launches. Taylor is a Shakespearean scholar and holds a master’s degree in English literature from Liverpool University.

“I know this is an area where the dean has a particular interest,” Ritholz said “I’m very confident he’s going to be sure to do what it takes to make it work.”

Taylor said the program fits well into Olin’s strategic plan, with opportunities to give students global experiences, study abroad opportunities, and chances for experiential learning. New courses specifically targeted at the arts are in the planning stages and will combine with existing courses such as “Thinking Creatively and Leading Creative Teams” and “Economics of Entertainment.”

“Creating a minor in the business of the arts at this time in our history would send a powerful message that Olin is on the move, preparing our students to think critically and act boldly to meet the challenges of 21st century business,” Taylor said.

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