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Alumnus gift benefits business school (Released: 3/13/97)

by Elizabeth Omara-Otunnu, Office of University Communications.

STORRS, Conn. -- An alumnus who made a successful career in manufacturing has given $500,000 to establish an endowed chair of manufacturing and technology management at the University of Connecticut.

The gift from Robert Cizik will be matched by the state under UConn 2000, for a total of $1 million.

Cizik, who graduated from UConn's School of Business Administration in 1953 with a bachelor of science degree in accounting, recently retired as chairman and chief executive officer of Cooper Industries, a Houston-based manufacturer of electrical products, tools and hardware, and automotive products.

In the 1970s he had to provide in-house training for his employees because few business schools offered a manufacturing curriculum.

Since then Cizik has encouraged closer ties between business and higher education. "Graduating top-flight people, people who are ready for the working world, is vital to business," he said.

Cizik said quality teachers are important. "They make the critical difference in the classroom and, to recruit the best, a university needs high-profile positions," he said. "Once a person reaches professor, the next rung up is an appointment that carries special recognition. That's exactly what an endowed chair does."

The Robert Cizik Chair in Manufacturing and Technology Management will enable UConn to recruit nationally for a senior faculty member who will bridge business and academia, foster joint projects in engineering and business, and underscore the importance of preparing students for careers in technology management.

"This will make us more competitive in recruitment and enable us to go out and recruit a leading scholar in the field of technology management," said Thomas Gutteridge, dean of the School of Business Administration.

"Technology management is a field in which business techniques and concepts are combined with science and engineering and applied to technology," Gutteridge said. "Where they all come together is in manufacturing -- the production of commercial products."

Technology has enormous potential for providing success in business but that potential may not be realized unless the technology is properly managed, Gutteridge said. Competence in managing technology, however, lies at the interface between business schools, engineering schools and colleges of science and has tended to fall between the cracks of graduate professional education. Graduates who have expertise across those boundaries are at a premium in the job market, he said.

The endowed chair is the first in UConn's School of Business Administration. Cizik has established similar chairs at Harvard University, where he earned his MBA, and the University of Houston.

Cizik, one of four brothers who attended UConn, graduated with honors in 1953. Starting out as an accountant with Price Waterhouse and then a financial analyst with Exxon USA, he joined Cooper Industries as executive assistant in 1961 and worked his way up. He became chairman in 1983 and CEO in 1992.

Cooper Industries is the world's largest supplier of automobile replacement parts. It is also a major producer of electrical supplies and equipment, tools and hardware, petroleum and industrial products.

The company's Connecticut subsidiaries include New England Die Casting Inc., in West Haven; Ideal Manufacturing in Beacon Falls; and Union Pin in New Hartford.

In 1978, Cizik was recognized as CEO of the Year by both Financial World and the machinery industry.

He is a charter member of the UConn School of Business Administration's Alumni Hall of Fame and won the UConn Alumni Association's Distinguished Alumni Award in 1979.