Generosity -- and spontaneity -- have made graduate's support of Kettering University memorable

Mike has had a very successful career in industry and as an entrepreneur – and that career stands as a wonderful testament to the doors that a Kettering education can open.”

A version of this story appears in the Spring 2015 issue of Kettering Magazine

Mike Riggs ‘76 is so grateful for his educational experiences at Kettering University that he wants to propagate those onto others by giving back generously to the campus and its programs. Generously and spontaneously.

At a ‘Bulldog Insights’ lecture sponsored by the Student Alumni Council on August 8, 2014, Riggs surprised the students in attendance by spontaneously giving each of them a $1,000 scholarship. The impromptu $60,000 donation directly to students is just one of Riggs’ many contributions to Kettering University.

“Mike has had a very successful career in industry and as an entrepreneur – and that career stands as a wonderful testament to the doors that a Kettering education can open,” said Kettering University President Robert K. McMahan. “More importantly, Mike has now inspired the students -- who now sit where he once did -- to continue to pursue their dreams while striving to make a positive impact on the lives of others. We are grateful to have alumni like Mike and are deeply appreciative for all he has done to support Kettering University.”

His desire to give to the school stems from his own professional success rooted at Kettering. Riggs is the CEO and owner of Jack Cooper Holdings Corp. which is one of the largest car haul companies in North America. Jack Cooper Holdings Corp. now has more than 5,000 employees and the company hopes to exceed $1 billion in annual revenue by 2016.

In 2013, Riggs was named the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year for the Midwest region. Riggs also received last year’s Global Outstanding Achievement Award from Automotive Supply Chain Magazine, which is based in London.

Jack Cooper Holdings Corp. has also been named the General Motors Global Supplier of the Year two of the last three years. The company also received the 2014 Ford World Excellence Award.

“I think the experience at Kettering helped me understand both the work and practical side of education as well as the theoretical classroom side,” Riggs said.

Riggs graduated from Kettering with an Industrial Administration degree and completed his master’s in business administration at Harvard in 1979. The graduate degree began as a daunting task that very quickly became feasible based on his strong undergraduate background.

“When I went to Harvard Business School, I was scared to death,” Riggs said. “As a young kid. I thought all these geniuses were there but after a month, I felt that I was the veteran guy. I was the youngest guy in the class but I had more work experience than most of them.”

Riggs credits his time at Kettering for his preparedness at Harvard and is now creating opportunities for future students to receive the same rigorous and transformational educational experience. Riggs and his wife Theresa Riggs personally contributed $100,000 and Jack Cooper Holdings donated an additional $100,000 for the Riggs Student Enrichment Program. The program is made up of two components: 1) Riggs Scholars; and 2) Riggs Business Hub.

The Riggs Scholars program will offer five incoming freshman pursuing a degree in Business at Kettering a $5,000 award annually for four consecutive years for a total of $100,000 in scholarship support. The recipients of the scholarships will also be offered co-op and mentoring opportunities with Jack Cooper Holdings.

The Riggs Business Hub is a proposed interactive learning environment that will anchor the business program and curriculum. The hub will be a uniquely designed and technically innovative space that will permit networking between students, faculty and visitors; professional development opportunities; and the opportunity to collaborate across fields with engineering students on campus.

The hub will make Riggs’ belief in the necessary fusion of engineering and business a physical reality. Based on his own experiences, Riggs’ believes that both engineering knowledge (systems, processes, operations etc) and business skills (leadership, marketing, accounting etc.) are necessary for entrepreneurial success.

“The two are so synergistic that it makes Kettering the most perfect college to get either someone going to the engineering field or the business world,” Riggs said.