Cheerleading the Change Makers

By supporting the School of Engineering, Steve and Gerry Ricci are helping students dedicated to changing the world.
Steve Ricci, a white male, stands in front of a blackboard in a suit


Steve Ricci, E67, E88P, vividly remembers the challenges of his time at Tufts. After switching his major from liberal arts to mechanical engineering his sophomore year, he had classes six days a week and labs every afternoon—plus an hour daily commute by bus from Dorchester.

"It was a heavy load, but it was what I wanted: Great professors and a great atmosphere with fellow students," said Ricci, who went on to earn an M.B.A. at Harvard and serve as president of the New England Venture Capital Association. "My Tufts education served me well."

After a forty-year career in venture capital, most recently with Flagship Pioneering in Cambridge, Ricci retired in 2014 and gives generously of his time to Tufts as a member of the School of Engineering's Board of Advisors since 2006. He has enjoyed watching the school transform into a first-class research institute that maintains its focus on excellent teaching. "The caliber of the research coupled with the passion for teaching continues to grow my enthusiasm for the school," Ricci said.

Steve and his wife, Gerry, E88P, are now showing that enthusiasm by generously supporting Brighter World: The Campaign for Tufts. They have funded a charitable remainder trust that establishes three endowed funds for summer scholar research grants, graduate fellowships, and undergraduate scholarships at the School of Engineering.

Ricci, who also chairs the School of Engineering Campaign Committee, said he and his wife wanted their legacy to strengthen funding for both financial aid and research opportunities for budding engineers. "I am always impressed by Tufts students," said Ricci. "They're confident they are going to change to the world. We're their cheerleaders."

By funding the trust with shares in a company in which they were early investors, they turned highly appreciated, but non-income-producing stock, into an income stream that would supplement their retirement funds. In addition, they avoided capital gains tax, thus allowing them to make a larger gift to Tufts.

"The charitable trust is a good mechanism for us," Ricci said. "It offers an important financial safety factor; at the same time, it gives us the satisfaction of making a substantial contribution to financial aid and student research opportunities. When we're gone, the funds will go directly to support students. Overall, the trust allowed us to more than double our lifetime giving to the university."

This gift continues a long history of giving to Tufts. Ricci began contributing to the School of Engineering's annual fund as a young alumnus, making gifts that were modest but deeply felt. "They were made in appreciation for the opportunities I found at Tufts," he said.

In 2011, the Riccis contributed to the Beyond Boundaries campaign by establishing The Stephen and Geraldine Ricci Interdisciplinary Prize, awarded annually to a student team taking part in the Tufts $100K New Ventures Competition. Intended to spur business ideas that demonstrate interdisciplinary engineering design and strong commercial potential, the prize is helping turn laboratory discoveries into real-world projects that benefit society. Prior to that Steve and Gerry had funded a lecture series in the Entrepreneurial Studies curricula.

"At Tufts, I got a great education that put me on a career track that went well beyond my dreams," Ricci said. "Any young student with the capacity and the desire to pursue engineering and engineering research at Tufts should be able to follow, and exceed, their own dreams too."