The University of New Mexico has lost a prominent business and educational leader with the passing of Dr. Sul Kassicieh, a professor at the Anderson School of Management who had been diagnosed with cancer.
Kassicieh died at age 65 on Wednesday, Oct. 18, surrounded by his family and friends. He was born in Jerusalem and had traveled around the world. He came to Albuquerque in 1973, earning an MBA in Finance and a B.S. in Mathematics at UNM.
He attended the University of Iowa in 1978, where he earned a Ph.D. in operations research and international business before joining UNM’s faculty in 1981. Kassicieh was the chair of the finance international trade technology studies at UNM.
He was role model, who created a positive impact for hundreds of student students, staff, and business people associated with the Anderson School of Management, said UNM Professor Alberto Solis, a close colleague of Kassicieh.
“The key thing that made him so valuable is that he was someone who was very fair and stood by his word,” Solis said. “He did what was right and that provided a great positive leadership to the rest of our department and the students.”
During his 36 years at the Anderson School of Management, Kassicieh was known as a friend and advisor to his colleagues and students. People who have worked with Kassicieh are saddened about his loss and will miss his important leadership role at the Anderson School of Management.
“(Kassicieh) offered a very practical insight based on his experience, offering high quality academics based on his research,” Solis said. “His expectations of students would go above and beyond to research and also in the writing of business plans for his Masters of Technology courses.”
Solis, who partnered with Kassicieh in the creation of the UNM Business Plan Competition, said his experience in managing the entrepreneurial development program with Kassicieh was that it was growth-oriented.
“Working with Sul reaffirmed the value of making decisions based on what you believed was the right thing to do, even if it was an unpopular decision among others in your organization or outside of it,” Solis said. “But he was also very willing to work with faculty to help them become better professors.”
In 2007, the Anderson School recognized Kassicieh as one of the first Distinguished Professors, one of the highest faculty titles at UNM. Kassicieh dedicated himself to New Mexico’s economic development, and in 2005 he founded the UNM Business Plan Competition.
He teamed up with community leaders to obtain funding for statewide competitions. Solis said that while working with his students, Kassicieh taught them to be realistic.
“His focus was based on planning and being very realistic in terms of what it would take to make a startup feasible and also successful,” he said.
The goal and the vision that Kassicieh had was to have an impact on economic development in New Mexico, Solis said. Going into its 15th year, the Business Plan Competition has expanded to collaborate with Central New Mexico Community College, New Mexico State University, Santa Fe Community College, Northern New Mexico College and the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology.
“What we essentially do, thanks to his impact and leadership on this program, is that we help students learn to create growth-oriented businesses through business planning that they learn from attending boot camps that are led by local entrepreneurs,” Solis said.
With Kassicieh’s leadership and guidance, the UNM Business Plan Competition has helped entrepreneurs start businesses across New Mexico.
Anderson School alum David Smidt, one of the first entrepreneurial winners in New Mexico, owns Mother Road Mobile Canning, a company that offers canning services for small breweries and wineries. He said he owes much of his success to Kassicieh, who was his professor.
“His encouragement for me to enter in the Business Plan Competition was what got me excited about doing that,” Smidt said. “Without him starting that program, I wouldn’t be doing that company that I am doing now for sure. Once I got to the level of competition, his encouragement and guidance was exceptional. The fact that he was able to bring in the right people and to allow those people to help us to develop our business plan and idea was amazing.”
Ludella Awad is a news reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @LudellaAwad.