PAUL JOSEPH RIZZO ’ 50 1928–2017
IBM Veteran Brought Global Vision to Business School
When Paul Rizzo ’ 50 surveyed the business landscape in the mid-
1980s, he saw a fast-paced environment
with ever-increasing competitiveness,
trending toward globalism. As the new
dean of UNC’s business school, he wanted to make sure it kept pace.
A year after Rizzo retired from IBM
in 1986, UNC lured him back to campus and set in motion a dynamic new
era of business education. He set out to
strengthen the ties of the school with the
state’s business community and adapt
the curriculum to globalization. “I was
impressed with how quickly he perceived
the need to push the school ahead in
terms of research productivity and how
convinced he was that the school has
something to offer the state’s economy,”
said then-Provost Samuel Williamson.
“He just was a really strong leader,”
said Paul Fulton ’57, who followed Riz-
zo as dean. “He inspired people. I think
people liked to work with him. ... With-
out a doubt, he put Kenan-Flagler on the
map — just his presence.”
Rizzo, who died Feb. 23 at age 89,
had joined IBM in 1958, going on to
become its vice chairman in 1983. Along
the way, he served as a director of several
companies, from Burlington Industries
to Johnson & Johnson. In 1965, when
he was promoted to IBM’s vice president
and corporate controller, the compa-
ny announced its move into Research
Triangle Park, where it continues to be
among the region’s largest employers.
“He was very disciplined in how he
made decisions,” said Dick Daugherty, a
longtime colleague at IBM. “When you
went to see him, you didn’t go in with
a nice, flowery presentation on some
subject. You had specifics. You had num-
bers. ... You had to prove your case if you
were going to get his support.”
In the new business era, Rizzo saw
that managers needed a broad base of
experience and knowledge to compete.
He knew that survival dictated that U.S.
culture be more international.
Rizzo, whose major had focused
on accounting, favored an integrated
approach to teaching business, with some
courses focused on the nuts-and-bolts sub-
jects, such as statistics, and others more the-
oretical, such as economics.
One of Rizzo’s first goals was to make
the business school the most globalized
school in the country. Rizzo encouraged a
change in the school’s outlook, with faculty
traveling overseas to teach. He also encouraged faculty from other countries to come
to UNC to teach so that its own faculty and
students could be exposed to those cultures.
He expanded the size of the MBA class and
increased the number of students who spent
part of their MBA programs overseas. More
foreign students were invited to UNC.
Rizzo raised eyebrows when he pushed
communication skills, requiring students to
take courses in business writing and public
speaking. He saw human skills as extremely
important to success. “Quantitative, ana-
lytical skills are important, and one would
be hesitant to sacrifice any of that,” he once
wrote while dean. “But we need to expose
students to business problems and business
people that point out the dimensions of
leadership and human relationships.”
Within a year of Rizzo becoming dean,
the number of corporations recruiting
MBA students on campus had increased
20 percent, top-ranking executives were
giving speeches to and meeting with MBA
students, and contributions to the school
had increased 35 percent.
When Rizzo took over as dean, the
business school had outgrown an expanded Carroll Hall. With the Kenan Center
completed on South Campus, Rizzo secured a neighboring site for what would
become the McColl Building and initiated
the fundraising that would be the financial
foundation for building it.
Rizzo started his college career at Cornell on a football scholarship. When the
coach who recruited him, Carl Snavely,
moved to UNC in 1945, Rizzo followed.
After a tour of duty in the Army, Rizzo
ended up on the UNC team that included
such College Football Hall of Famers as
Charlie “Choo Choo” Justice ’ 50 and former NCAA reception record-holder Art
Weiner ’ 50.
Many Tar Heel football fans thrilled
at Rizzo’s performance in the 1950 Cotton Bowl. With Carolina trailing Rice
University 27-0, Rizzo as blocking back
scored two consecutive touchdowns on
passes thrown by Justice. UNC lost the
game but made the outcome respectable.
After retiring as dean of the Kenan-Flagler Business School in 1992, he
served on the boards of the UNC Health
Care System, the UNC Board of Visitors,
the UNC System Board of Governors
and the Educational Foundation.
In 1994, he received UNC’s William
Richardson Davie Award and the GAA’s
Distinguished Service Medal. He later
was awarded an honorary doctor of laws
degree from UNC for his accomplishments in business, higher education administration and philanthropy.
The Paul J. Rizzo Center, a conference center designed with executive
development as its core purpose, opened
in 2000. The campus features the historic
DuBose Home, which includes a dining
facility, a residence center and classrooms.
Kenan-Flagler’s MBA and other graduate
programs are regularly ranked in the top
20 and higher.
“Paul Rizzo was a true leader who
served with strategic vision, deep commitment and grace in business and here at
UNC Kenan-Flagler,” said Doug Shack-elford ’ 80, the current dean, who was
hired as a professor by Rizzo in 1990.
— Don Evans ’ 80
Rizzo on campus in 1988