Enduring Commitment: An Alumnus’ Perspective on Giving and Darden’s Lasting Influence
By David Buie-Moltz
Every contribution to the Darden Annual Fund resonates, invigorating fresh endeavors and bolstering key programs at the School. Richard P. Dahling (MBA ’87), a senior consultant at Fiducient Advisors, has championed Darden for over three decades. A proud member of both the Darden Society and Hickory Club, Dahling is also the co-class agent for 1987 and served as reunion giving co-chair for his 35-year reunion. His class is behind the forthcoming Class of 1987 Outdoor Amphitheater, set to open in spring 2024. We sat down with him to discuss his enduring Darden ties.
What drew you to Darden initially?
I was admitted to three schools: Fuqua (Duke), what is now Ross (Michigan) and Darden. What really stood out was the day I spent at Darden. Within the first hour, I realized I’d been transported into a different world. It’s like the old Star Trek concept of getting beamed onto another planet. They handed me a case, expecting me to participate actively, even as a guest. And then they cold-called me: “Mr. Dahling, what do you think?” At First Coffee, after the searching class experience, a group of students approached me, asking for my thoughts and offering assistance with my decision making. These initial moments were crucial, and you could sense the incredible energy in the place. It was a unique introduction to an environment that left an indelible mark.
Could you highlight a couple of Darden professors who made a significant impact on you?
While my career has been in finance, two marketing professors stood out: Chris Gale and Paul Farris. Chris had a qualitative orientation, and Paul was all about numbers and data. I learned quickly, and painfully at times, via lively class discussions, that you needed both qualitative and quantitative to master the case material we waded through in our First Year. In the world of media and sound bites, Chris Gale’s words have stayed with me for years. He once said, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.” This quote had a profound impact on me then and still does now.
What drives your continuous support for the Darden Annual Fund?
Prior to my current position, I had the privilege of having a 23-year career with Fidelity Investments. One of Fidelity’s most successful investors taught me a great lesson: take a small position in a company’s equity, and it’ll stay on your radar. You’ll keep learning about it, and the more you learn and like it, the more you invest in it.
That’s how I’ve thought about my relationship with Darden and the annual fund. I invested a small amount of money in the fund early, and as my Darden experience was reinforced and validated during my career, I invested more each year. Over time, the annual fund, as a proxy for the Darden brand, became a long-term holding in my portfolio, delivering returns in both my life and career that far exceeded my initial expectations.
With all its ups and downs, why have you remained steadfast in your commitment to Darden?
Having a long-term orientation helps, as does the good fortune of being a member of the extraordinary Class of 1987. Darden has had periods of great momentum and growth over the years but also times when transitions and retirements have created challenges. Regardless of those fallow periods, my classmates have loyally and fully embraced many aspects of Darden’s life; participating in the annual fund; teaching on Grounds; recruiting recent grads, and establishing scholarships and awards are just a few of their contributions to the School. Their actions reinforce my commitment and challenge me to find new ways to give back.
Originally featured in the Fall 2023 edition of Pillars magazine, this story is just the beginning. Read more about Faculty Forward, Milestone II of Darden’s Powered by Purpose campaign.
The University of Virginia Darden School of Business prepares responsible global leaders through unparalleled transformational learning experiences. Darden’s graduate degree programs (MBA, MSBA and Ph.D.) and Executive Education & Lifelong Learning programs offered by the Darden School Foundation set the stage for a lifetime of career advancement and impact. Darden’s top-ranked faculty, renowned for teaching excellence, inspires and shapes modern business leadership worldwide through research, thought leadership and business publishing. Darden has Grounds in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the Washington, D.C., area and a global community that includes 18,000 alumni in 90 countries. Darden was established in 1955 at the University of Virginia, a top public university founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819 in Charlottesville, Virginia.
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