Notre Dame receives first-of-its-kind $100 million unrestricted commitment from entrepreneur Kenn Ricci

Author: Notre Dame News

The University of Notre Dame today announced a first-of-its-kind, $100 million unrestricted commitment from Kenn Ricci, an aviation industry leader who is a Notre Dame alumnus and Trustee, and his wife, Pamela.

The single largest unrestricted guaranteed gift ever committed to the University is being made through a Philanthropic Succession Partnership (PSP), an innovative giving structure developed by Ricci, founder of Directional Aviation Capital, a holding company for aviation companies he has founded or acquired.

The $100 million commitment will begin to be fulfilled through lifetime gifts by the Riccis and, ultimately, completed with proceeds from the sale of business assets held by a Ricci family limited partnership that owns interests in Directional Aviation Capital.

Upon Ricci’s death, Notre Dame will receive beneficial rights to a limited partnership interest and become the partnership’s successor general partner. The University will hold the controlling interest and have responsibility for the valuation, liquidation and distribution of the partnership’s assets, providing incentive to maximize their value. The proceeds will fulfill any outstanding portion of the Riccis’ $100 million commitment.

“I cannot adequately express my gratitude to my friends, Kenn and Pam, for this bold, innovative gift that will impact generations of our students and strengthen the University’s mission as a truly great, truly Catholic university,” said Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., president of the University. “Kenn’s distinguished business career has been characterized by visionary innovation, and we are tremendously fortunate that he brings that visionary leadership to help Notre Dame.”

The Riccis’ commitment to provide unrestricted funds to the University gives Notre Dame’s leadership the flexibility to devote attention to its areas of greatest need at the time. Recent uses of unrestricted gifts include financial aid, areas to further Notre Dame’s Catholic mission, programs that enhance student life and experiences and uses that strengthen academics by expanding research opportunities.

“Our involvement with the University has convinced us that Notre Dame makes a difference for the betterment of society, constantly championing the causes of underdogs. They not only are educators but also influencers and problem-solvers,” said Mr. Ricci. “In working closely with Notre Dame’s Office of Gift Planning, which has long been a leader in nonprofit funding innovation, we were able to solve a succession problem that many families face and also provide the means for Notre Dame to continue doing in the future what it does so well today.

Philanthropic Succession Partnership How It Works 1200 Px

“The Philanthropic Succession Partnership model addressed succession and wealth transfer issues faced by the owners of many privately held businesses and their families while also allowing the University to benefit to the maximum extent possible. Our goal was not only to support the University’s mission but also to inspire more strategic philanthropic engagement between donors and nonprofit recipients, raise awareness of the value of unrestricted giving and encourage increased donations of unrestricted gifts regardless of the vehicle,” said Mr. Ricci.

Pamela Ricci added: “Notre Dame has been a lifelong source of inspiration for Kenn and his son Kennedy, who graduated from Notre Dame earlier this year, and we wanted to give back to the University in a way that reflects what it has given to our family. We are proud to support the University in fulfilling its mission as a place of learning, research and scholarship, as well as their commitment to service and community.”

“Our commitment demonstrates an uncommon level of philanthropic engagement and trust,” Kenn Ricci said. “It relies on transparency, accountability and shared interest in maximizing the value of business assets, while ensuring objective, independent oversight of the disposition of those assets for a smooth transition of business operations and family wealth.”

The Ricci family’s previous gifts to Notre Dame include a $5 million gift to create an outdoor home for the Band of the Fighting Irish and a world-class facility for students participating in RecSports; the Ricci Band Rehearsal Hall; the Ricci Band Musical Excellence fund; the President’s Circle; and financial aid, including the Tomasetti Grace and Lynne Grace Brown Scholarship, the Frank and Doris Vas Scholarship and the Charles and Mary Ricci Scholarship.

Kenn Ricci, a 1978 graduate of Notre Dame with a bachelor’s degree in accountancy, was a member of the marching band as an undergraduate and is a current member of the Board of Trustees. He earned his juris doctorate degree from Cleveland-Marshall College of Law, where he was named distinguished alumnus of the year in 2016, honored for his leadership in the global aviation industry.

Ricci has spent more than 30 years developing innovative services in the aviation industry. He is the principal of Directional Aviation Capital, which operates a family of private aviation companies, including Flexjet, Flight Options, Sentient Jet, Sky Jet, Nextant Aerospace, N1 Engines and Constant Aviation.

The author of “Management by Trust,” which features practical techniques for building employee trust and success, Ricci has been honored as an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year and is the youngest-ever recipient of the William Ong Memorial Award for meritorious service to the aviation industry, as well as the Harvard Business School’s Dively Award for Entrepreneurship. He also has received the “Lifetime Aviation Entrepreneur Award” from the Living Legends of Aviation, which honors people of remarkable accomplishment in aviation including entrepreneurs, innovators, industry leaders, record-breakers, astronauts and pilots.

In 2014, the Northeast Ohio Chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation honored Ricci for championing research and treatment of the disease, which today affects 30,000 children and adults in the U.S. Mr. Ricci’s youngest child, Austin, has cystic fibrosis.

Ricci has been actively involved with Notre Dame for more than 25 years, serving on the Undergraduate Experience Advisory Council and Mendoza College of Business Advisory Council, in addition to serving on the University’s Board of Trustees. Ricci also is a member of the boards of University Hospitals and the Smithsonian as well as several corporate boards and is the aviation advisor to the Guggenheim Aero Opportunity Fund.

Mr. Ricci has three children: Elizabeth, vice president of client services at Corporate Wings; Kennedy, co-founder of Instagram marketing firm AdLove Media; and Austin, a student.

This newly unveiled gift contributes to the Boldly Notre Dame campaign announced by the University in August.

Contact: Paul Browne, vice president for public affairs and communications, 574-631-8696,

Originally published by Notre Dame News at on October 25, 2017.