'37 grad leaves big legacy

Dec 21, 2009

A $1.2 million estate gift from the Earl and Lanice Riopelle Fund will boost Graduate and Continuing Education at Kettering University.

When Earl and Lanice Riopelle of Fort Worth, Texas, wrote their will many years ago, they described a vision of post-baccalaureate courses to better prepare engineers for seeking corporate management roles.  A $1.2 million estate gift from the Riopelles to Kettering University in Flint, Mich., will do just that. 

The Earl and Lanice Riopelle Fund will create a $1.2 million endowment to support Graduate and Continuing Education opportunities, especially for engineers seeking advancement in business and industry.  The fund will also provide resources and library materials for Graduate-level and Continuing Education coursework at the University.

The gift was announced Monday, Dec. 21, at Kettering and is one of the largest estate gifts ever given to the University.  The gift was delivered by Christopher D. Conner, senior vice president of corporate and institutional banking at National City, now part of PNC Bank, Lansing.

Riopelle was a 1937 graduate of Kettering/GMI.

“Kettering University is very grateful to the Riopelle family for this lasting and noteworthy gift,” said President Stan Liberty.  “There is a dynamic value to Earl and Lanice’s contribution,” Liberty said.  “We will use this investment to help professional engineers improve themselves and their companies.  We will also use it to develop new coursework in areas, such as Technical Management and Engineering Management, exactly the kind of pro-active, post-graduate education Earl envisioned at his alma mater.”

Provost Michael Harris said the funds will be directed to Kettering’s Graduate Program, Continuing Education Program, the Department of Business and library resources.  “Economic conditions now require stronger skill sets in international commerce, management and forecasting.  The business requirements of professional engineers are changing in health care, government agencies, advanced manufacturing and even non-profit organizations,” Harris explained.  “Kettering will be able to provide cutting-edge training for the top echelon of leaders and those who hope to be at the top someday,” Harris added.  “This gift arrives at a time when Kettering is making advances for its students and its stakeholders.” 

Liberty credits Sue Weiss, senior planned gifts officer, for completing the estate gift process and bringing the endowed funds to Kettering.

Earl and Lanice Riopelle
Earl Riopelle, 1914-2005, was a 1937 graduate of Kettering/GMI.  His co-op as a student was with Charles Kettering in GM's research department.  Riopelle was employed at General Motors for almost 40 years.  Among his contributions to industry was a shared patent in 1948 for improvements to a T.C. VanDeGrift Balancing Machine. Upon his death in 2005, he was honored by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, who noted that he had been an active member of their organization since 1955.  His wife, Lanice, died in 2006.  The couple lived in Fort Worth and had no children.

Kettering’s Graduate Program

Kettering offers several master's degrees, including a highly-individualized and popular MBA program.  Kettering’s MBA is possibly the most convenient, student-oriented graduate degree program available in the country.  Because Kettering has a year-round academic calendar, students may start the Kettering MBA program in any term and take classes on campus or through distance learning that is more than just on-line. All classes are taught live on campus, captured digitally and sent to students via CD, DVD or video streaming. Students “attend class” when and where it is most convenient for them – that could be in a live classroom, on a laptop in a moving train or airplane, on their desktop home computers, or from a military base in Iraq or research station in Antarctica.

Business concentrations in the Graduate Program include Leadership, General MBA, Healthcare Management and Information Technology. Engineering concentrations include Power Electronics and Machine Drives (Electrical Engineering), Wireless Communications (Electrical Engineering), Mechanical Design (Mechanical Engineering), Manufacturing Engineering (Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering). Students must have a Bachelor's degree from an ABET-accredited Engineering discipline/program to enroll in an Engineering concentration.

Written by Patricia Mroczek