The Backbone for Success

Richard Osborne and his wife.

Dick and Charlene Osborne

Dick Osborne is a firm believer in the power of education—so much so, he's created two substantial legacies at UB to support others' education.

Headshot of Dick Osborne.

Dick Osborne (BS ’69) grew up in Buffalo across Main Street from UB—what is now the South Campus. He could walk to school when he enrolled at 17. 

Seventeen turned out to be too young. He didn’t stay. But four years later, when he came back to UB to earn his bachelor’s degree in management at night, he was married with two children and working at GM’s Tonawanda manufacturing plant—a different person than he’d been as a teenager.

Osborne recently retired as senior managing director of Madison Industries, a Chicago-based private equity firm. After he, finished at UB, he left Buffalo and didn’t look back—until he planned his estate.

So, he’s using his success in business to create two substantial legacies for UB, one to fund interdisciplinary research between faculty in the School of Management and School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and one to fund undergraduate scholarships in the two schools.

Using his estate to “give back” for his education is a happy decision. “My career was fun. Not just financially rewarding but exciting.”

It was a lucky break at UB that started the corporate journey that brought him back to UB as a significant benefactor.

“I have a responsibility to help the schools where I got my education.” Dick Osborne, BS '69.

A classmate recruited him for a job with Pillsbury in Buffalo. Ambitious by nature, he juggled school, his family and the Pillsbury job and was soon promoted to run a 200-man department.

He continued moving up the ladder at Pillsbury, relocating his family of five nine times in 10 years, finally becoming responsible for 50 manufacturing facilities. 

“I was never one to turn down an opportunity,” he says. “I view myself as an effective leader who’s had my share of good luck.”

Later he headed a manufacturer of barbeque equipment and water coolers, an opportunity that evolved into running the much larger, publicly traded Scotsman Industries as chairman and CEO. Then he moved into private equity.

Now, recently retired, he and his wife, Charlene, split their time between Chicago and Scottsdale, Ariz.

Along the way, Dick and Charlene have been investing in education, one person at a time, supporting scholarships for students in financial need.

“The backbone for success has got to be education,” he says. 

He says he’d like the student scholarships to support need and reward excellence for what he calls “superior players.” And the choice to support two schools—management and engineering—for future collaborations among faculty reflects a lesson he learned from his career: that outcomes in problem solving are enhanced by collaboration.

“You need to combine fields to get the best innovation,” he says. He knows. He’s been there.

Published April 21, 2022