Kirk Richter, BSBA 1968, has a history of getting in on the ground floor. He declared his accounting major at the University of Missouri–St. Louis in 1964, only one year after UMSL was officially established. After 10 years in public accounting, Richter started as an accounting supervisor at a budding Sigma-Aldrich in 1978, a St. Louis-based chemical, life science and biotechnology company.
“Sigma-Aldrich was kind of like UMSL – I watched them both grow up,” he says.
Richter stayed at Sigma-Aldrich for 34 years, moving through a variety of finance roles and serving as treasurer and vice president, until he retired in 2012 after a year as interim chief financial officer.
“Sigma-Aldrich was only $30 million in chemical sales when I started,” he says of the company recently bought by Merck in Germany. “Even though it was a publicly traded company, the family owned 80 percent of the stock at that point, so it really was more of a private company. When I left, we were $2.5 billion in annual sales. I truly got in on the ground level.”
And Richter’s doing that yet again at UMSL with the Alumni Association’s new all-inclusive membership model. His term as the association’s president began in July 2015, coinciding with the rollout of the new membership model, which declares all alumni members by virtue of their UMSL degree. The shift away from a dues-paying model has long been in the works, but establishing the new model is Richter’s primary goal as president.
“We’ve roughly doubled the membership,” he says. “But just because we flipped the switch doesn’t mean all alumni will engage. We’re still trying to find ways to enhance engagement. First and foremost, we’re encouraging alumni to activate their new membership card, which you have to have in order to take advantage of exclusive on- and off-campus offers available to members.”
Richter also says alumni can look forward to increased variety in affinity groups.
“We’re looking at things like athletics, lawyers with UMSL undergraduate degrees, honors college alumni, an engineering group,” he says. “We’ll see where we go from there. The point is that engaging with the university is not a one-time transaction. We want to encourage a lifetime connection.”
That’s not just a line from Richter either. He’s made it a point to maintain a connection to the university throughout his career and retirement. He first returned to campus in the ’70s as a member and multiple-term president of the business alumni chapter.
“I decided that it was important to give back to something that had helped me with my career and helped shape my values,” he says. “That’s why I’m still doing that today.”
It also led him to get involved with the larger UMSL Alumni Association, which he says he’s proud to be a part of, especially since the restructuring of the governing board.
“We’d like to be more representative of the alumni population,” Richter says, “so we’re making sure we’re diverse across the three generations of alumni, the different colleges as well as backgrounds. We’re not all the way yet, but we’ve taken some great first steps.”
Maintaining his connection to UMSL has Richter visiting campus weekly, whether for his input in the Chancellor’s Council, his duties as Alumni Association president or his involvement with the business alumni chapter and the College of Business Administration leadership council. He says campus has come a long way since 1968.
“It’s amazing, especially with the new Recreation and Wellness Center,” he says. “But we’ve also been working on a new building for the business college. It goes back three deans ago when we first started talking about the college needing its own facility, so it’s nice to finally see it coming to fruition and the dirt beginning to be moved on West Drive.
“It is an exciting time to be part of the UMSL community,” Richter says. “UMSL alumni represent the past, present and future of what UMSL is all about.”
Check out the UMSL Alumni Association online at umslalumni.org/youbelong or call 314-516-5833. Tell them Kirk sent you!
This story was originally published in the spring 2016 issue of UMSL Magazine.