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Profile in Philanthropy: Thomas Ackerman ‘76
January 04, 2019
One of the duties ThomasAckerman ’76 relished as a former chief financial officer was “to help our chief executive tell our story to investors.” Those narratives, he once observed, often shunned “short-term momentum players” in favor of “investors who will stay the course with us for longer-term growth.” That could have described Tom’s own big-picture support for Isenberg and its students. Most recently, Tom was a key early investor in Isenberg’s visionary Business Innovation Hub. He has also supported the school through scholarships and in a leadership campaign that created both a strategic fund for its dean and a chair in honor of Isenberg’s former dean, Thomas O’Brien. In that substantial gift, Tom secured matching financial support from his employer, Charles River Laboratories. “My support for UMass goes all the way back to the lessons I learned from my father about giving and education,” Tom says. “Although I am the benefactor for these initiatives, I think about this as a family gift from the Ackerman Family Fund in honor of his legacy.”
Tom spent the lion’s share (28 years) of his career with the Wilmington, Massachusetts firm, which develops products and services to help pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies accelerate the research and drug development efforts. He joined the company in 1988 as controller of one of its smaller divisions. Four years later, he became controller of Charles River’s North American operations, and then excelled as its CFO from 1996 until his retirement in 2016. Like many accounting graduates, Tom began his career in public accounting, first at a regional firm and then with Arthur Andersen in Boston, where he focused on small manufacturers and commercial firms.
“I am grateful to UMass Amherst, Isenberg, and its accounting department for giving me a strong career foundation,” he emphasizes. “They helped me in everything that I’ve accomplished. And they offered great opportunities and resources for a self-starting student like me.” That included, he said, the accounting department’s outstanding faculty and supportive culture. Thanks in large part to his education and background in accounting and operations, Ackerman could confess: “My background wasn’t in Wall Street M&As. It involved more classical skill sets in IT, business operations, budgetary forecasting, accounting, and experience with financial markets. I think that investors appreciated our informed answers to their operational and financial questions. In my career, I never stopped learning,” he continued. “But some things stay the same, like making decisions with financial integrity. That’s a lesson that goes all the way back to Isenberg.”