The College of Business Department of Finance Advisory Board recognized Richard DeFusco, department chair and professor of finance for nearly 40 years of outstanding leadership and service at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln by establishing the Richard DeFusco Tribute Scholarship. Board members surprised the long-time professor with the honor during the college’s annual Partnership Summit in September.
“Richard always thinks about the greater good for our students and the finance program he has been so committed to throughout his career. The scholarship embodies what Richard has done in his career, which is to make it matter. Through the scholarship, he will leave a legacy in perpetuity, which is amazing,” said Kathy Farrell.
DeFusco earned his Ph.D. in finance from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville before joining the College of Business in 1985 as an assistant professor of finance. While mentoring students both in and out of the classroom, DeFusco also led the charge to designate the investments track in the finance major – and later the Master of Science in Finance – as a CFA® Institute University Affiliated Program, a prestigious recognition that shows the programs position students well to obtain the Chartered Financial Analyst designation.
“Richard puts the student's needs and concerns ahead of his own. I haven’t seen any professor care more about the students. He’s led multiple efforts to make the finance program a better place to learn, and what better way to honor an individual who has pushed the bounds on the academic front and cares about students than to put them in a position where they can award scholarships to those various students,” said Christopher Leitner, ’96, managing director at Tenaska Capital Management, who also serves on the advisory board.
DeFusco’s teaching and research interests include security analysis, and corporate finance and investments. He also serves as faculty advisor for the Big Red Investment Club, a student organization providing students with hands-on investing experience and other opportunities to expand their passion for finance, markets and investing.
“Richard's character is impeccable. It is singular in its focus and that's doing what is right for the students at the University of Nebraska and in the Department of Finance,” said Bayard Closser, ’82, president of Investment Planners, Inc. “He has worked a long time tirelessly and been true to the cause of Nebraska and the department. He's very deserving of the scholarship tribute, a minor token to allow him to continue to give back to the university.”
At the college, DeFusco led the MBA@Nebraska program as faculty director for three years. He later became chair of the Department of Finance in 2017, which also included working with the advisory board.
“After reading about Aaron Crabtree’s scholarship honoring the former School of Accountancy director, I thought about how Richard is a continuous learner who tests out new ideas, supports students and provides them with opportunities. I wanted to honor Richard in that way,” said Karen Plessinger, ’86, director of SouthWest Water Companies, who spearheaded the scholarship effort and chairs the board.
Doug Waggoner, '75 and '77, worked with DeFusco to create the Investors With Purpose program to provide students high-achieving students with a new course in asset management, mentorship with finance industry leaders and investments internships. Waggoner provided matching funds for the scholarship and kickstarted a wave of contributions.
“We've known each other for a long time and worked extremely close over the last three years with regard to the Investors With Purpose class. It's been very meaningful to me. Richard has been a great partner and a great professional. Also, he's been a great friend and I have truly enjoyed every interaction,” Waggoner said.
Tina Udell, ’97, vice president and managing director of corporate credit at Ameritas Investment Partners, shared how DeFusco influenced her future.
“Dr. DeFusco was part of my inspiration to pursue investing as a career through one of his investing classes. I always appreciated the passion he had for investments and his students,” she said.
In addition, DeFusco helped recruit Dean Farrell to the college when she was a Ph.D. student at the University of Georgia.
“I applied for positions across the country with no geographic restrictions, and one of the schools that offered me an interview was Nebraska. I was already on their radar a year before I was even on the job market and that was because of Richard. His relationship with my dissertation chair was critical in getting me here,” explained Farrell.
DeFusco looks forward to the positive impact the scholarships will provide future finance students.
“I’m overwhelmed by the generosity of all of those who provided the scholarship. I'm in awe of all of them and the work that they do for us in the college and me in the department. There’ll be a lot of good uses for the money,” said DeFusco.
Donate to the Richard DeFusco Tribute Scholarship here or contact Justin Swanson, development director for the College of Business, at firstname.lastname@example.org.