‘Enthusiastic,’ ‘thoughtful’ former board of trustees chairman dies at 75


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Businessman and former board of trustees chairman Richard Kiphart was known by his colleagues and family members as being very energetic and in love with his work.

By Campus Editor Campus Reporter

Richard Kiphart, renowned Chicago businessman and Columbia’s former board of trustees chairman of seven years, died Sept. 10 at the age of 75, according to an email sent Sept. 13 from President and CEO Kwang-Wu Kim and current board of trustees Chairman Bill Wolf.

Kiphart is survived by his wife, Susan Kiphart; three daughters, Ellen Kiphart Valentine, Jill Kiphart Gluck and Becky Kiphart Capps; and seven grandchildren.

Chris Capps said he remembers Kiphart not only as his business partner but as his father-in-law, describing Kiphart as being a family man first and foremost.

“He would tell his employees at William Blair [Global Investment Banking and Asset Management] that we work hard, we’re a great firm to work at, and you’ll be home in time for supper to be with your family,” Capps said.

Kim said Kiphart opened up many doors for Columbia by expanding its network and bringing people onto the board of trustees, including Wolf.

“He was an amazing partner,” Kim said. “I saw Dick every week. I never saw him not excited about the college—[he was always] really interested in what we were trying to accomplish. He had a deep belief in the college and our mission.”

Kiphart worked at William Blair and Co. for 50 years, later becoming president of the firm. It was there, Wolf said, where he met Kiphart. They worked together for about two years before both making their way to Columbia. Wolf added he owes Kiphart his career.

“He’s somebody who you could have a handshake [with] on a transaction, and it was as good as a 20-page contract,” Wolf said.

Kiphart also served as board member for Chicago’s Poetry Foundation and Lyric Opera, as well as many other organizations, according to the email announcement sent by Kim and Wolf.

Capps said Kiphart “believed in the possibility of people,” which is what made him good at his job.

“He saw these young, hungry individuals from all walks of life taking a big risk and he wanted to help support them,” Capps said.

Kim reminisced about a day during his first winter in Chicago when he and Kiphart were going to their weekly breakfast gathering, and despite the long distance and below-zero temperature, Kiphart was still eager to walk. This energy and his “warm” personality is what Kim said he loved about his former colleague.

According to Kim, Kiphart introduced more than a quarter of the current board to the college. Wolf said Kiphart is also credited with increasing student aid from $20 million to $38 million.

“He really helped to expand people’s awareness of [Columbia] and connect us more to people with resources,” Kim said.

Wolf will continue to lead as chairman of the board, continuing on his predecessor’s legacy.

“[Columbia is] going to be a better school in 10 years because we had Dick Kiphart as our chairman for the short time he was [here],” Wolf said.

Capps said what he will miss the most is asking his father-in-law for advice.

“[Richard] was my mentor, my father-in-law, my partner; he was everything to me, and he will be greatly missed,” Capps said. “It’s a true loss to the city.”