Honored business alumni thank UMSL for transformational experiences

by | May 9, 2017

Kirk Richter, Don Mueth, Diann Gross, Robert Mastis, Denny Reagan and Luigi Wewege shared stories while being recognized last week at the Millennium Student Center.
Salute to Business, 2017

Members of the Salute to Business Circle of Excellence welcome the 2017 honorees Thursday in the Millennium Student Center. (Photos by August Jennewein)

When Don Mueth received notice of a recent award, he thought surely the University of Missouri–St. Louis had made a mistake.

During the Salute to Business Achievement presentation last week, Mueth noted he was just a guy from south St. Louis who wanted to provide a nice life for his family. As an average student with little money lining his pockets, Mueth found at UMSL the tools to excel in a finance and investment career.

“When I first graduated, I really didn’t appreciate the quality of the education that I received here,” Mueth admitted. “But over time – as I was competing and succeeding against business people with degrees from name-brand and top-ranked universities – I really grew to appreciate and become very proud of my UMSL degree, the school and all of the people that make it what it is.”

Mueth was one of six College of Business Administration alumni honored during the Salute to Business Achievement event Thursday in the Millennium Student Center.

Awards were presented to Mueth, Diann Gross, Robert Mastis, Denny Reagan and Luigi Wewege. Kirk Richter also received the first Dean’s Medal, an honor Charles Hoffman, dean of the college, created to recognize Richter’s lifetime commitment to UMSL.

Kirk Richter, Salute to Business

Kirk Richter, BSBA 1968, received the first Dean’s Medal during the Salute to Business Achievement.

Kirk Richter, BSBA 1968, receives first Dean’s Medal

As a member of one of UMSL’s first graduating classes, Richter remembers the university’s humble beginnings. Although much has changed since his time on campus, he notes one important factor has not.

“Quality education was and is the key element that the college provides that enables our graduates to succeed,” Richter said.

Richter retired in 2012 after 34 years at Sigma-Aldrich Corporation, where his most recent positions were vice president and treasurer and interim chief financial officer. At UMSL, he is the president of the UMSL Alumni Association and serves on the Chancellor’s Council, the UMSL Business College Leadership Council and the College of Business Administration Alumni Chapter Board. He also serves on the University of Missouri Intercampus Alumni Council.

During the introduction to Richter’s award, Hoffman noted the many honors Richter has collected at UMSL and commended his efforts in strengthening the alumni association.

“Kirk is a valued friend not only of the college but of me personally,” Hoffman said. “We are so grateful to have Kirk that we created this special award for him.”

Five years into retirement, Richter encouraged attendees to continue learning and pursing their passions.

“I want to challenge each of you to be passionate about what you do both in your professional career and your other activities,” Richter said. “I have a specific request that you consider how UMSL benefited you and how you can provide that same opportunity to your fellow alums and the students.”

 Diann Gross, BSBA 1980, uncovers her purpose during college years

When Gross arrived on the UMSL campus, her career path was uncharted. Now as a senior partner with Ernst & Young LLP, the certified public accountant credits her education and mentors for helping uncover her direction.

“By the time I graduated, I had a pretty clear vision of what I wanted to accomplish,” Gross said. “I really had the confidence that I made a good choice in becoming a CPA and joining Ernst & Young. I think that confidence came from not only the solid business and accounting education I had, but also the great counsel and advice I got from the professors.”

For the past 19 years, Gross has been a partner in EY’s national office and is responsible for the professional practice function throughout the Americas. She is a member and past chairwoman of the Missouri Society of Certified Public Accountants, a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and serves on the United Way of Greater St. Louis Board and Audit Committee.

Five UMSL alumni received the 2017 Salute to Business Achievement awards. Pictured (from left) are Denny Reagan, Robert Mastis, Diann Gross, Luigi Wewege and Don Mueth.

Robert Mastis, BSBA 1995, highlights UMSL’s quality, affordability

When selecting a transfer college following his first year, Mastis chose UMSL for two simple reasons – the school’s accreditation and tuition cost.

“For these very same reasons, students today choose UMSL,” Mastis said. “This combination of high-quality education at an affordable price is what UMSL fully delivers on today. The value, though, has increased tremendously.”

Mastis is a principal and founder of Digital Intersection, a marketing communications company focused on providing clients with a variety of highly measurable solutions. Mastis has more than 15 years of experience serving as a database marketing professional. He also served as president of the St. Louis Direct Marketing Association from 2004-2005 and maintains a board position.

Don Mueth, BSBA 1984, continues his education at UMSL

After growing to appreciate his UMSL degree, Mueth has come full circle and will pursue a Doctorate in Business Administration starting in the fall semester.

During the past 33 years, Mueth has served in many roles in the financial services industry including sales, operations, trading, management, research and corporate finance. He is the chief operating officer of Asset Consulting Group.

As an active volunteer in the St. Louis community, Mueth has a special interest in educational institutions. This engagement encouraged Mueth to thank the UMSL faculty members filling the Century Rooms during the Salute to Business Achievement presentation.

“What you do has lasting impact on people like me – just regular guys and girls from modest homes in average neighborhoods,” Mueth said. “You give us opportunities to achieve things that we never thought we could achieve.”

Denny Reagan, BSBA 1974, credits ascending career to luck, UMSL experience

Before becoming president and CEO of The Muny, Reagan advanced through the ranks of the oldest and largest outdoor musical theater in the U.S.

Some of his previous jobs included working as a member of the cleanup team, wardrobe dresser, courier, office clerk, manager of theater operations and assistant general manager. As he approaches his 50th anniversary with The Muny, Reagan notes his career “would not have happened without UMSL.”

“As a result of going to UMSL, I was able to continue working with The Muny, which led to many wonderful things and a great career for me,” Reagan said. “I’ve always said I’ve had a lucky life. … I truly believe, though, part of that luck is that the University of Missouri–St. Louis, which had only been established seven years earlier, was there for me.”

In addition to his work for The Muny, Reagan is involved with a number of local and national arts, civic and academic institutions. He is a member and past president of the National Alliance for Musical Theatre and serves on the boards of Central Institute for the Deaf and Great Circle. Reagan recently completed 10 years of service as a commissioner for the Regional Arts Commission.

Luigi Wewege, BSBA 2009, gives back through scholarship funding

While completing his undergraduate degree at UMSL, Wewege compiled an impressive resume.

Notably, he executed a pilot study for the Federal Trade Commission during a critical time in the American economy. The focus of the study was to examine and determine the accuracy of credit bureau information. The research ultimately provided the impetus for a report presented before Congress.

Wewege’s experiences and the faculty mentoring he received at UMSL motivated him to contribute to an annual academic scholarship.

“I’m now determined to ensure those students who have a desire to attend a college or university are able to,” Wewege said. “It is my sincere hope that those who are awarded the scholarship over the coming years will have their lives transformed as much as mine did due to attending such a great university.”

Wewege is the CEO of Vivier & Co, a boutique financial services firm offering private digital banking solutions to its clients worldwide. He is also the author of “The Digital Banking Revolution.”

The UMSL Experience

Sara Bell

Sara Bell