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Rick Stierwalt ‘80 (Business Administration) 2023 Distinguished Alumni Award Winner

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Rick Stierwalt ‘80 (Business Administration) has lived a life that has allowed him to give back to his community, offer advice to Presidents, mingle with Hollywood A-listers, race Formula cars, and more—and he attributes much of it to his time at the University of Indianapolis.

“All those opportunities were ripple effects because of what happened and what began at UIndy,” he said.

Stierwalt began his investment career working at Indiana National Bank and working closely with Merchant’s National Bank as their trust operations manager. He knew that in order to get where he wanted to go, he needed to bolster his real-world experience and natural instincts with some traditional education, so he enrolled in UIndy’s evening division of the business school pursuing a degree in finance.

During that time, several faculty were members of the American Institute of Banking (AIB), the educational arm of the American Banker Association, and through their connection Stierwalt became involved and eventually was President of the Indianapolis chapter. “I got that opportunity, which led to other opportunities because of the University having the program and the faculty who supported it,” he said. He was giving a talk on the topic of Federal Reserve policy at an ABA gathering when afterwards the president of the largest bank in Los Angeles, at that time the fifth largest in the country, approached him and offered him a job.

Stierwalt took that opportunity and ran with it, applying his education and his natural instincts throughout a 25-plus year career in the financial services industry, and working with some of the largest commercial banks in the United States. He founded two companies, raised capital, and took them public as CEO. He was a two-time finalist for New York’s “Entrepreneur of the Year” award. 

“It was a good experience at UIndy because I had really good instructors,” Stierwalt said. “I had professors who were CFOs, or went on to become leaders in politics and finance.” Those instructors made such an impact on Stierwalt that he returned to UIndy later in his career to adjunct teach himself.

Stierwalt appreciated the quality of the education he received but was particularly thankful for the flexibility of the evening division program because it allowed him to work full time and still go to school.

Stierwalt’s best grades were in economics and he attributes that knowledge to having a profound impact on his success. “Understanding how one economic event that happens can have a ripple effect across many other areas—especially as it pertains to the stock market— is so important,” he said. “You can take macroeconomic principles and lay them over any situation and realize how it creates a related cause-and-effect and there’s something you can learn from it.”

To students with the same entrepreneurial mindset that he had, Stierwalt says, “Pay attention to the AI or machine learning technology revolution and be there when it happens. Be ahead of the curve. Don’t focus on the past, focus on the future.”

He also emphasizes the importance of having dreams and goals that you want to accomplish, “But you have to spend time each day thinking about them and focusing on them or they will never materialize,” he says. “And you need to have actions behind those thoughts.”

Stierwalt says that it’s likely some of those goals change over time, and there will be moments when you feel lost, but that shouldn’t deter you. “That’s okay! Taking that time to focus on your goals will help keep things clear in your mind. It will also allow you to realize when you start heading in a different direction than you intended and should refocus your efforts,” he advised.

Recently, Stierwalt has served on the University’s Board of Trustees for over two decades, where he chaired the Finance Committee and oversaw the growth of the endowment. But Stierwalt’s most visible contribution to the University came in the form of his gift which ultimately resulted in the construction of the Alumni House which bears his name. When Stierwalt returned to campus he realized that there was no place for him to conduct business, “hang out,” or otherwise call his own on a campus that he had once called home. 

“I had heard a statistic about how once people graduate, they don’t reconnect with their university, they go off and begin their life and just don’t come back,” Stierwalt said. “So that’s how I had the idea for the Alumni House. I wanted to create a place where alumni could return to when they were on or near campus where they could hang out, use professionally, and just generally provide a reason for them to return to campus.”

“When alumni come back, they feel like they’re part of a community. And when they feel like they’re a part of a community, they’ll look for ways to give back.” That giving back can take many forms according to Stierwalt: philanthropy both large and small scale, mentoring students, providing networking opportunities for graduates, providing professional guidance to others and connecting community partners with the University. “All of those things ultimately result in a better UIndy,” he said.

“UIndy has a lot of great things going for it, and I feel honored to be a part of what’s going on here,” Stierwalt said. “We as alumni should spearhead the University’s connection and involvement in Indianapolis and central Indiana. We should find high school students and current UIndy students and mentor them on their way to being the next generation of Greyhound alumni.”

To see Rick and other Greyhound alumni honored at this year’s Honors and Recognition Celebration on Thursday, May 4th, please RSVP here