Design firm CEO turns altruistic eye to Haas
Allan Spivack, MBA 79
For Allan Spivack, MBA 79, the term “making a difference” means acknowledging that he has resources to share and the opportunity to share them—not only in his business dealings around the world but also at his alma mater.
“Being at Haas was inspiring,” he says. “It gave me the opportunity to see business more globally and exposed me to concepts like sustainability and just-in-time manufacturing. After I graduated, I built my design company, RGI Home, around principles that weren’t as common at the time, like trying to make a difference in the local community.”
Spivack started RGI Home in 1986, after working for a time in his family’s import firm. Named after Spivack’s great-grandfather Reuben Greenspan, RGI Home offers storage products made from sustainable and renewable materials such as wicker, rattan, bamboo, and wood to retail chains in North America and Europe. In the 1990s, Spivack managed RGI’s decade-long partnership with Williams Sonoma as its buying agent in Asia.
Spivack’s initial effort to effect positive change via RGI was to source home products from developing countries—not only to provide opportunities for growth in those economies but also to support small communities near his manufacturing facilities with health care, education, and child development.
“I thought if I could bring great product to America and the market responded, that would generate business for countries like the Philippines,” he says. “RGI’s first philanthropic work was there. We gathered about 50 families and provided them with clothes and school supplies their children needed.”
Now, Spivack is turning his altruistic eye to Haas. Last year, he began an annual gift of $60,000 for the Spivack Social Impact Fellowship, which is split between two MBA students who demonstrate interest in making business more equitable, empathetic, and effective through social entrepreneurship. “The fellowship is a way to identify students with a high level of interest in social entrepreneurship and to get them thinking about how business can have a positive impact,” Spivack says.
He also donates $30,000 annually for the new Investment for Impact Research Prize—the first of which will be awarded this fall.
Elsewhere at Haas, Spivack made a generous gift that will name a breakout room after his family in the soon-to-be-opened Connie & Kevin Chou Hall and has pledged $100,000 to be distributed over four years to help fund the Institute’s new Center for Gender, Equity & Leadership, a project founded by Assoc. Adj. Prof. Kellie McElhaney, who serves as the Center’s executive director, and supported by Professors Laura Tyson and Laura Kray.
The combination of the means and the opportunity to help others is what motivates Spivack, he says.
“I’ve been fortunate to build a successful business over the past 30 years, and I have the privilege and obligation to do something with what I’ve accomplished,” he says. “I know that if I stay aware, I can make small but positive changes in the way others live.” —Kate Madden Yee