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Rady School of Management: Starting Up a New Kind of Entrepreneur

This was a unique opportunity—the chance to build a business school from the ground up. As one of the top 15 research universities in the world, UC San Diego had the talent. And positioned in the heart of one of the most densely concentrated innovation hubs in the nation, the entrepreneurial infrastructure was well-established.

The new business school would be unlike any other, propelled by a start-up culture that would prepare graduates to make a positive impact on industries of the 21st century.

Though the visionary idea was backed by local leaders, the professional school took several years to establish. The proposal was approved by the University of California Regents in 2001, but the campus remained just a dream until one gift changed everything. Philanthropist and business leader Ernest Rady had his eye on the region’s leading university ever since he moved to the area in 1966. In 2004, he and his wife, Evelyn, donated $30 million towards the launch of the new business school. In honor of the couple’s generosity, which was the second-largest gift UC San Diego had received at the time, the school was named the Rady School of Management.

The gift jumpstarted fundraising efforts needed to secure a physical space for the school, which had been holding classes since 2003 in various lecture halls across UC San Diego. By 2007, the first cohort of 55 full-time MBA students graduated, and the school moved to a permanent home, named Otterson Hall in honor of the late William Otterson who co-founded the regional development organization UC San Diego CONNECT. The business school campus was completed in 2012 with the addition of Wells Fargo Hall, an expansion made possible by a challenge gift from Ernest and Evelyn Rady that led to a $5 million gift from Wells Fargo.

Since its founding, the Rady School of Management has thrived, now offering doctoral and Masters degrees as well as executive courses and undergraduate minors. It became one of the youngest business schools in the nation to achieve recognition by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. Rady School alumni have gone on to start over 115 companies that are operational today, with 75 percent remaining in San Diego, boosting the local economy.

For alumnus Suman Kanuganti, it was the Rady School’s six-month StartR accelerator program that helped him launch his company Aira. A remote assistive technology platform, Aira combines wearable smart device technology—such as Google Glass—with personalized service. It connects visually impaired users with remote agents to interpret the data stream from smart glasses and assist them in navigating their environment.

“I want to thank the Rady School for all they have done to help develop me as an individual,” said Kanuganti, who received an MBA in 2014. “I now have the business expertise to pair with my engineering background. Without my Rady School MBA, I would not be where I am today.”

The future of the Rady School was secured in 2015 when the Rady Family Foundation committed $100 million. For Ernest Rady, the gift was driven by his “Return on Life” philosophy, believing that the resources accumulated throughout life should go to help other people, from supporting graduate students to boosting start-ups that develop new life-saving technologies.