The roster of the noted “Justice Era” of the late-1940s got a little thinner last week with the passing of Paul Rizzo, a four-year Letterman from 1947-50 who later went on to significant accomplishments in business.
Rizzo died Thursday Feb. 23 at the age of 89 after a period of declining health.
Rizzo enjoyed a long career with IBM, where he was a senior VP and later vice chairman of the board. He retired and then served five years as dean of the Kenan-Flagler Business School at Carolina from 1987-92. He was also a partner and chairman in the Chapel Hill investment firm, Franklin Street Partners.
Rizzo was born in 1928 and grew up in Utica, N.Y. He was recruited to play football for Coach Carl Snavely at Cornell University, but when Snavely moved to Carolina in 1945, Rizzo followed him south, bringing nothing but two pairs of overalls, two flannel shirts, a shaving kit and toothbrush. Rizzo lettered in football in four seasons on the legendary Carolina team that included Charlie Justice and Art Weiner and went to three bowls in four years.
After graduating with a degree in accounting, Rizzo embarked on a business career that culminated in the position of vice chair of the board and chief financial officer of IBM.
After having reached IBM's mandatory retirement age of 60, Rizzo by chance was on a flight to Japan in 1987 with Richard Jenrette, then a member of Carolina's Board of Trustees. Jenrette encouraged him to apply for the post of dean of the Kenan-Flagler Business School.
Chancellor Christopher Fordham chose Rizzo for the job in a bold move that reached into the business community for an academic dean who had no previous experience in higher education leadership. Rizzo accepted the challenge with a goal of strengthening ties to North Carolina's business community and preparing Carolina's graduates for the increasing globalization of business.
Rizzo's administration initiated an era of phenomenal growth in Kenan-Flagler. He began with an executive education program that more than quadrupled in funding during his tenure. He energized the trustees and Kenan-Flagler's supporters by insisting that Carolina could and should compete with the best business schools in the nation. He pushed for a new building, advocated higher tuition for graduate students that would be retained by Kenan-Flagler to be used for building up its executive program, and de-emphasized the undergraduate program. At the end of his five-year term as dean, Rizzo had raised the Kenan-Flagler Business School to national stature.
A memorial service will be held at 10 a.m. March 16 at the Chapel of the Cross in Chapel Hill. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the UNC Lineberger Cancer Center or the James Spurling Football Scholarship Fund, which Rizzo and his wife Sydna endowed in 2003.