Perfect Storm

Bob, from left, daughter Hope, son Matthew, wife Cynthia, and daughter Emily Rice

Bob, from left, daughter Hope, son Matthew, wife Cynthia, and daughter Emily Rice

By Doug Scanlon | Spring 2017

How a series of random events created the perfect opportunity for Bob Rice ’77 to support a worthy cause at Springfield College

There is no single, causal element that can lead a physical education major to become a federal prosecutor for the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), Chief Counsel to the Chairwoman of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and now, partner in an international law firm specializing in defending corporate officers, directors, and Fortune 500 companies in DOJ and SEC investigations. It requires a perfect storm of events.

For Bob Rice ’77, it began with his father, who was a New York City homicide detective and sparked Rice’s interest in law enforcement at an early age. When Rice graduated from Springfield College’s Health, Physical Education, and Recreation program, there were few teaching opportunities available, leading him to obtain a master’s degree in counseling and to explore opportunities in that field at the collegiate level.

While working as a counselor at Georgetown University years later, he met his future wife, Cynthia. After they began to date, he sat in on one of her law school classes and decided he wanted to pursue a career in law for himself. It wasn’t a direct path for Rice, but it was the right one.

Sea Change

In 1991, Rice became a federal prosecutor for the DOJ, working in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New York’s Southern District in lower Manhattan. In mid-2000, after almost a decade of prosecuting narcotics, organized crime, and white-collar securities fraud cases, Rice, then the deputy chief of the Office’s Criminal Division, left public service for a more lucrative career in the private sector. Rice did so because the medical bills for his daughter, Emily, who had courageously battled cancer from 1994 to 1997 when she passed away, reached seven figures and had left him and Cyndie in financial distress. His new salary helped ease their financial burden, but it was the overwhelming support they received from family and friends during Emily’s struggle that Bob and Cyndie remember and cherish the most.

“People came out of the woodwork to help us and we have never forgotten that,” Rice said. “We’ve since been fortunate from a financial perspective, but what good is it if you can’t help other people? As my wife says, ‘now it’s our turn.’”

When deciding which institutions to support, Rice, who served as chief counsel to the Chairwoman of the SEC, in Washington, D.C., from 2013-2015, and is now back in the private sector again, thinks back to his experiences at Springfield College—a place he holds close to his heart—envisions the direction he sees his alma mater heading in, and another perfect storm appears to have formed.

Going Pro

Rice is fond of the NCAA commercial that states: “There are over 400,000 NCAA student-athletes, and most of us will go pro in something other than sports.” It reminds him how important it is for student-athletes to be academically focused and makes him reflect on his undergraduate experience and how he should have focused more on academics himself.

In a serendipitous moment, Rice was invited to a lunch recently with President Mary-Beth Cooper, who talked about the new Learning Commons project, which will obviously place an enormous emphasis on academics at Springfield College.

The timing couldn’t have been more right for Rice to make his gift.

“Today’s world is far more competitive than when I graduated. A well-rounded education is important but academics ought to take precedence over everything else, and student-athletes need the best academic environment possible. That is why I was interested in dedicating my gift to the Learning Commons,” he said.

     Slated to open for the fall 2017 semester, Springfield College will renovate Babson Library to convert it into a modern learning commons that will serve as the center for academic life on campus.