Lehigh’s College of Business and Economics received a $5 million gift from alumnus Sanjay Shah, ’89, the founder and CEO of Vistex, Inc. The gift is for the advancement of the executive education program at Lehigh.
The program was started in 2015 and currently offers a certificate course through the business school.
On Thursday, Shah presented the check in front of faculty and colleagues in Tamerler Courtyard outside Rauch Business Center.
The check will name the new Vistex Institute for Executive Learning and Research at Lehigh. The new institution will focus on creating an engaging and immersive experience for students by focusing on relevant and real-world business research.
Accounting professor Joseph Manzo sees this as a big step for the business school.
“Executive education started as an idea three years ago and now we have an endowment of $5 million,” he said. “That’s big.”
Manzo said he expects this new program will encourage students to be more engaged in the business community.
Economics professor Frank Gunter hopes this will break the mold of how a “traditional” business school operates.
“The days where a business student lives in a bubble is gone,” Gunter said. “In order to maintain the quality of a business school, students must engage with the community.”
Evidence of a push for engagement can be seen through other business school initiatives. Both the LehighSiliconValley program in California and visits to accounting firms in New York City take students out of the classroom and into business environments.
“Students are going to get a peek into what real-world life in corporate America is like,” Shah said, “which is important because that’s where they are going to end up.”
After graduating from Lehigh with an MBA in 1989, Shah entered the corporate world. Ten years later, Shah founded the global software company Vistex, Inc.
Today, the company has 20 offices and 1,300 employees. Shah credits a lot of his success to Lehigh.
“This has been the gateway for me,” Shah said. “Not only to this wonderful country but all the opportunities that an MBA gives you.”
The implementation of executive education at the univeristy resonated with Shah. In his speech addressing the Lehigh faculty, Shah said he was “pumped up” about this new initiative, calling it a “game changer.”
He said he wants to help executive education at Lehigh reach a new level.
“Education and continuous learning are drivers for all that happens in the real world,” Shah said.
He said his endowment check will grant students an opportunity to conduct research that matters.
Georgette Chapman Phillips, the dean of the College of Business and Economics, said this was an important moment for the business school. She said this program will enable the college and Lehigh to create relationships by becoming an intellectual partner to the business community. She thinks this is the push the program needed to get off the ground.
“We have broken out into a full run,” Phillips said.