Alum Rich Kluesner making legacy gift to help future students share in opportunities he gained through UMSL

by | Jun 11, 2024

The 1978 accounting graduate has a passion for the arts and aims to support the next generation of artists and musicians pursuing their passions at the university.
Rich Kluesner stands with the Millennium Student Center in the background

Rich Kluesner, a 1978 graduate of the University of Missouri–St. Louis, made a legacy gift to support future students in the College of Arts and Sciences. (Photo by Derik Holtmann)

By Melissa Landry, University Advancement

Rich Kluesner is much like a piece of artwork.

From a distance, it is easy to think you have a clear picture of who he might be. He graduated from the University of Missouri–St. Louis with a Bachelor of Science in Accounting in 1978 and went on to have a more than 40-year career in the securities industry.

Up close the brushstrokes illuminate that beyond being a talented businessman with a gift for financial statements, he is an art enthusiast, a generous philanthropist and a devoted volunteer.

Kluesner found the perfect way to blend his financial and artistic sides by crafting a contribution to UMSL through his estate; by naming the university as a beneficiary of his retirement account, he’s ensuring future generations of artists and musicians can fulfill their dreams.

Throughout his career, Kluesner served as chief financial officer for three different firms. He spent most of his career, more than 27 years, with a small firm where he was partner, CFO and head of operations. He retired in 2018 and was enjoying a bit of travel before 2020 caused a change of plans.

During the pandemic, he was offered a part-time job doing accounting for a mergers and acquisitions firm in Chicago. He was glad for the distraction and stayed with them for 3½ years before re-entering retired life in February 2024. Since his second retirement he has focused his attention on volunteer work and making a few home improvements.

“I don’t work anymore, but I go to a lot of meetings,” he said, laughing while talking about his efforts to make a difference in the community. He is a board member of the Craft Alliance, Dance St. Louis and Food Outreach. He is also on the Dean’s Advisory Board for the College of Arts and Sciences and the Legacy Council at UMSL.

It was his involvement with Dance St. Louis that reconnected him with UMSL nearly 20 years ago. He was attending a retirement party at the Blanche M. Touhill Performing Arts Center for a colleague on the board and found himself mingling with UMSL staff. Over the following decades, he developed friendships across campus, and while he is a graduate of the College of Business Administration, his passion for the arts led to a deeper involvement with the College of Arts and Sciences.

Kluesner credits this love of the arts to his family. His father was an electrician who grew up on a farm in St. Charles County, but he was also a musician. He played violin, accordion, piano and guitar and enjoyed playing gigs at the local radio station, weddings and other gatherings with his brother, a factory worker.

While they never made much money through music, the joy this form of expression brought to them was never lost on Kluesner. After his father’s passing, he made a legacy gift in honor of his father and his uncle to the College of Arts and Sciences.

“They were both very proud of me, that I was the first member of our family to graduate from college and that I went to the University of Missouri–St. Louis,” Kluesner said. “My dad had cousins that went there, and my mother took a few classes there so that she could fulfill her dream of working in the classroom. He was happy for me. It was something he was proud of.”

Kluesner started his collegiate education at a junior college before moving on to UMSL, which he felt was the natural next step. His family’s home was just a few miles from campus, so he could live at home and attend classes. He started with math, which he always did well in. After enjoying a few accounting classes, he decided a business degree made sense. He pictured a future in an office, maybe in sales. Now, more than 40 years later, he is thankful for the path he started while at UMSL.

“I have a lot of respect for the university,” Kluesner said. “I respect what they helped me attain in my life.”

It is part of why he gives back, both of his time and by making gifts to the university.

He inherited his giving spirit from his parents. They were very involved in their church and his mother was a committed volunteer at a local orphanage, donating clothes and beautician services.

“I saw what she got out of it,” he said. “I feel like I’m at a point in my life where I can give back and hopefully, I can make a difference in somebody’s life. That’s the whole purpose.”

Kluesner hopes his generosity will help students know someone out there is thinking about them and wants them to achieve their dreams.

As a member of the Legacy Council, Kluesner recognizes the importance of legacy gifts, and that some people may not understand their power. For his own legacy gift, he named UMSL a beneficiary of his retirement account. He felt by making a gift in this way, he could make the biggest impact as these gifts pass to the university tax-free. He also hopes that by sharing his own story, it might encourage people to ask questions and see if they can make a difference with a legacy gift.

His advice is to do the research, talk to people and discover what works best for you so that you can find ways to impact people’s lives and futures.

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