Fellowships, Innovation, and Volunteering for an Exponential Impact

Kimberly Ritrievi ScD ’85, SM ’85

“In terms of philanthropy, I think of higher education as a multiplier,” says Kimberly Ritrievi, a chemical engineer who heads the Ritrievi Group private investment firm in Tampa, Florida. “I also support social services organizations that are doing important work to meet immediate needs. But to support higher education is to attack problems at their root so we can implement long-term solutions.”

Ritrievi has played her own part as a “multiplier” for MIT initiatives in the past decades as a member of the MIT Corporation Development Committee and the Chemical Engineering Visiting Committee, a graduate fellowship donor, and a board member of the MIT Sandbox Innovation Fund. In 2020, she created a charitable remainder trust (CRT) with the MIT Office of Gift Planning. A CRT provides income to a donor and/or other beneficiaries while they are living and then goes to a designated cause at MIT.

Supporting graduate students through planned giving.

When Ritrievi was an MIT graduate student and a graduate advisor at MacGregor House, she saw many different sides of the graduate student experience, balancing a demanding schedule of research and classes with, for example, meeting undergraduates over dinner to help them decompress.

In 2001, Ritrievi spearheaded the creation of the Adel F. Sarofim (1962) Fund, which provides fellowship support for chemical engineering graduate students who have followed in her footsteps. The fund is named for Professor Sarofim SM ’57, ScD ’62, Ritrievi’s chemical engineering advisor, who passed away in 2011. “Sarofim was a great advisor. There were bumps along the way, but with his support I was able to power through it,” she says. “The rigorous research made for a very good educational background as I prepared to enter the industry.”

Ritrievi’s CRT, which will ultimately support the Sarofim Fund, is invested alongside MIT’s endowment and managed by the MIT Investment Management Company. There are also outside managed traditional investment options available. “The ability to invest alongside the MIT endowment is favorable. You get a reasonable return and then when you don’t need it, MIT gets the rest,” Ritrievi says. “With my current tax situation, I saw that the usual annual outright gift I make to MIT could be enhanced with a CRT.”

Bringing students’ ideas to life.

A desire to get more directly involved with students led Ritrievi to the MIT Sandbox Innovation Fund, which provides seed funding and mentorship for student-initiated entrepreneurial ideas. “I thought it sounded like a lot of fun, and it has been. The students have great ideas and are very enthusiastic,” she says. “Through the program, they get some initial support to see whether their ideas could bear fruit. Already there are several that we saw in 2020 who are thriving.”

“I gained a seat at many tables because of my MIT degrees.”

Innovative ideas from graduate and undergraduate MIT students are, as Ritrievi notes, the seeds that make societies grow for the better—or, “multipliers.” Support from planned giving donors can lay the groundwork for those ideas to take root. “I gained a seat at many tables because of my MIT degrees,” she says. “It gives you a measure of credibility that can’t be bought. I appreciate that there are many opportunities at MIT to stay involved and make an impact for the future.”

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