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Equal Opportunity Success

Written by: 
Kristen L. Walsh

With a firm belief in the importance of education, and unshakable confidence in their alma mater, Steven '73 and Christine '73 (Smith) Manfredi have given a generous boost to women’s leadership initiatives at Bentley.

The couple's $2 million commitment to the university supports women's leadership development programs that engage undergraduates and corporate leaders alike.

“Spending 35 years in a male-dominated work culture has made women’s success in the business world an important issue for me,” says Ms. Manfredi, a retired partner for investment firm Wellington Management. “Part of this effort is creating opportunities for success to become a non-gender issue.”

“Chris and I believe deeply in the importance of developing the talents of our female students,” says Mr. Manfredi, who is vice chairman of the Bentley Board of Trustees. “This has become a critical priority for universities across the country. We believe that Bentley is uniquely positioned to make groundbreaking contributions and become truly distinctive in this area, on a global scale.”

Generosity and Vision

A significant portion of the Manfredis’ gift will build on a recently launched initiative to develop innovative leadership programs for female undergraduates at Bentley. The work began this past spring, funded by a $1.125 million gift from Bentley parent and trustee John W. (Jack) Cumming and his wife, Pamela. These programs will focus on fostering confidence and risk-taking skills; balancing personal and professional life; and increasing women’s presence as executive officers and corporate directors.

“Chris and I are very grateful to Jack and Pam for their generosity and vision in getting this initiative underway,” says Mr. Manfredi. “We couldn’t be happier to join them in supporting such a timely and important project.”

Trustee chairman J. Terence Carleton ’77 notes Ms. Manfredi’s unique perspective on the student experience at Bentley. 

“Chris attended when it was rare for women to enroll,” he says. “Bentley has since become an attractive choice for female students, and the financial support from Steve and Chris will allow us to attract even more accomplished young women from around the world who are seeking a high-quality, well-rounded business education. Essentially, this gift will help take Bentley to the next level in educating promising female leaders.”

Corporate outreach is another key component of widening opportunities for female professionals.

"It remains curious to me that there is still such little gender diversity in corporate suite positions and on corporate boards, when there are many qualified experienced women available and able to provide this diversity," notes Ms. Manfredi.

Her husband echoes the observation.

“In order to really institute change,” says Mr. Manfredi, “young women need to be welcomed into this world of change by both male and female leaders – all the way up to CEOs.”

That group of rising young female professionals includes the couple’s daughter, Laura, who graduated from Bentley in 2010 with a BS in Corporate Finance and Accounting.

“We were both thrilled that Laura selected Bentley,” says Mr. Manfredi, tracing her decision to a Bentley-sponsored finance camp. “Laura attended Wall Street 101 the summer before her senior year in high school. That experience on campus gave her the comfortable feeling that Bentley was the place for her undergraduate choice.”

Empowering by Example

Building the philanthropic culture at Bentley is a focus for Mr. Manfredi – and not solely as a donor. His trustee commitment includes chairing the board’s Advancement Committee, which aims to strengthen bonds within the university community and highlight how support from alumni, parents and friends can make a difference for today’s students.

The Manfredis are doing just that, observes President Gloria Cordes Larson.

“We are inspired by their passion to help Bentley set a new standard in women’s leadership development,” she says. “The significant scope of their new financial commitment will have a transformative impact on the university for decades to come.”

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