Established 1874.

The Oberlin Review

Established 1874.

The Oberlin Review

Established 1874.

The Oberlin Review

Wurtzels Donate $5 Million for Oberlin Business Program

Photo Courtesy of Jacob Strauss
The $5 million will help programs like the Ashby Business Scholars Program.

Alan Wurtzel, OC ’55, and his wife, Irene Wurtzel, recently committed $5 million to boost Oberlin College’s business program. The program currently includes a Business Integrative Concentration, which was launched three years ago, but no major or minor. The donation is contingent on the College raising an additional $5 million to match their contribution. The Alan L. ’55 and Irene R. Wurtzel Endowed Fund for Business Education would bring $10 million to the Oberlin business program, expanding the program’s capacity to offer classes and experiential opportunities.

Associate Professor of Business and Co-Chair of the Business Integrative Concentration Eric Lin is confident the additional $5 million needed to match the original donation will be raised.

“There’s a lot of alumni who I think have found themselves going into a business-related field,” Lin said. “But [it] wasn’t obvious that that’s where they were going to end up when they were here at Oberlin. And now that they have developed a life in business, there isn’t a natural place to connect to the College.”

Lin believes that this fund will give them that opportunity. He also believes that the sizable fund might lead to the creation of a business major, or at least a stronger and more robust business program.

“That kind of funding should be associated with substantial growth,” Lin said. “And if it’s going to be for business, it’s hard for me to imagine that we’d be using $10 million for something that stays really small.”

This is not the first time the Wurtzels have given money to Oberlin. The Irene and Alan Wurtzel Theater, made possible by their donations, opened in 2018. The theater, devoted to Oberlin’s performing arts programs, can hold up to 300 seats and has provided a space for Dance, Theater, and Vocal Studies programs and performances.

Current Oberlin students interested in business can take courses in Accounting, Economics, Management, and Ethics. Students also have the opportunity to complete a Business Integrative Concentration, or take part in Business-specific programs such as the Ashby Business Scholars program, which celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2023. This experiential program gives students the chance to learn key business skills, apply them in the real world during visits to locations including Cleveland, New York, and Boston, and network with successful alumni and other business leaders.

“I’ve never been frustrated that there wasn’t a business major,” College second-year Shawn Lisann, an Ashby Scholar and Economics and Math major who intends to complete the Business Integrative Concentration, said. “I still don’t think there should be a business major, but I do think there should be more opportunities to explore business at Oberlin, which I’m really excited for.”

Lisann cited Oberlin College’s character as an institution grounded in liberal arts education as a reason for his hesitance around creating a business major. College Second-year Aahil Singh, an Ashby Scholar and Economics major, expressed similar mixed feelings.

“I think Oberlin has a very sort of liberal, anti-capitalistic mindset that a lot of students carry with them,” Singh said. “The idea of a business major might seem to counter all of that.”

But Singh was also enthusiastic about the benefits of an expanded business program and believes that more opportunities could be useful to students.

“If it was presented as a major, or even as a few courses, that you could do to build some practical skills that you can learn from business, like negotiation, marketing, or problem solving,” Singh said. “I think those are very valuable skills that just about anyone should have.”

Oberlin College will put together a committee to raise money for the Alan L. ’55 and Irene R. Wurtzel Endowed Fund for Business Education in order to match the $5 million. The committee will also serve to provide guidance on the development of the business program.

The program will likely expand business courses and faculty as well as experiential opportunities. Lin emphasized that building a strong connection between the classroom and the real world is integral to a business program.

“When we think about this program, it doesn’t stop at just attracting and admitting students who are interested in this and graduating them,” Lin said. “We need to think about where they’re going to be placed, what kind of impact they’re having and what their careers will be like. … What we’re looking for is that they have great careers, [and that] they make an impact on the world.”

Lisann expressed his gratitude to the Wurtzels for the gift.

“Business in general at Oberlin has always been pretty niche, so this will probably help it gain fruition, [with] more opportunities available to students,” Lisann said. “I’m very thankful to them.”

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