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Profile in Philanthropy: Eugene Isenberg ’50,‘00H
January 07, 2019
Gene Isenberg '50, '00H was a dedicated alumnus and long-time champion of the school as well as a successful businessman and generous philanthropist. In 1997, the UMass Amherst business school was renamed the Isenberg School of Management after he and his wife, Ronnie, donated $6 million. At that time, the Isenbergs’ contribution was the largest of its kind from an individual in UMass Amherst's history.
"I believe my own good fortune is, in substantial part, due to the quality and breadth of education I received," he explained when he donated the gift.
Gene, who passed away March 16, 2014, was chairman of Nabors Industries from 1987 until 2012, and served as its CEO from 1987 until 2011. He was chairman emeritus at the time of his death. He joined the firm (then known as Anglo Energy), immediately distinguishing himself as one of America's most gifted business strategists and dealmakers. Under his leadership, Nabors became a dominant player in gas and petroleum drilling markets in Alaska and the lower 48 U.S. states. The firm also excelled in Canada, Central and South America, the North Sea, the Middle East, Asia, Africa, and countries in the former Soviet Union. Gene was also a director of the American Stock Exchange, NASDAQ, and the National Association of Securities Dealers.
Before Nabors, Gene was co-CEO of NorthStar Tubular, a trader in oil country tubular goods, and chairman of Genimar, a steel trading and building products manufacturer. He also held management positions with Exxon.
In the mid-1990s, Gene and Ronnie created the Isenberg Awards for outstanding graduate students at Isenberg and the colleges of science and engineering. More than 100 students who combined management with science and engineering have received Isenberg Awards of $10,000.
The Isenbergs’ 1997 gift of $6 million brought the Isenberg alumni community together with unprecedented energy in the school's campaign to build its 42,000-square-foot Harold Alfond Management Center wing.
In 2006, the Isenbergs created a second set of annual scholarships for up to eight juniors with status in both Isenberg and the Commonwealth Honors College. To drive interdisciplinary education on campus, they established endowed chairs in the School of Management, the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, and the College of Engineering.
At the time of his death, Gene was one of the four co-chairs of UMass Rising, the campus's $300 million sesquicentennial fundraising campaign. He was also a board member and former president of the UMass Amherst Foundation. In 2012, he was the inaugural recipient of the University's Legacy of Leadership Award, which recognizes visionaries who have transformed organizations while championing public service, social diversity, and quality of life improvements. In 2000, he received an honorary doctorate from the University.