New Mexico lost one its educational and business pioneers on Wednesday with the passing of Dr. Sul Kassicieh, long-time faculty and distinguished professor at the University of New Mexico’s Anderson School of Management.
Kassicieh, 65, died of cancer Oct. 18, surrounded by family members and friends.
The Jerusalem-born professor had a huge impact on the local community,
inspiring hundreds of students, businesspeople and others to build the local entrepreneurial ecosystem that’s now flourishing in Albuquerque.
He was a long-time pillar of both UNM and the business community, said UNM Chief Economic Development Officer Lisa Kuuttila.
“He promoted entrepreneurship continuously over decades, long before many of us were even working in this field,” Kuuttila said. “He pioneered the effort to grow our entrepreneurial ecosystem into fruition. We owe thanks and credit to him for pointing us in the right direction.”
Kassicieh came to Albuquerque in 1973, earning a BS in mathematics and an MBA in finance from UNM. He earned his Ph.D. in Operations Research and International Business in 1978 from the University of Iowa and joined the faculty at UNM in 1981.
He held UNM’s Endowed Chair in Economic Development and chaired Anderson’s Finance, International, Technology and Entrepreneurship Department.
In 2007, Kassicieh was named the first-ever distinguished professor at the Anderson School, the highest faculty title bestowed by UNM.
Kassicieh founded the UNM Business Plan Competition in 2005, which has since grown into a marquee annual event where scores of students work over two semesters to build strategies for tech- and non-tech startups. It culminates each spring in a pitch event with cash prizes for the most-promising business plans.
The program has helped rally the academic and business communities around entrepreneurship as a motor force for economic development, said Stacy Sacco, director of UNM’s Small Business Institute.
“He really made an effort to get the school connected to the community, and to get students directly involved in the real world,” Sacco said. “The business plan competition was key to that. He provided a huge bridge for us to pull a broad network of people together to make things happen.”
Interim Anderson Dean Shawn Berman said Kassicieh worked tirelessly for students.
“I was lucky enough to have an office across from Sul, and I was always amazed by the constant stream of students who would visit Sul for help on their entry into the business plan competition or just for general advice,” Berman said in a statement. “He cared deeply about Anderson and worked tirelessly to advance the school. I will miss him greatly.”
Kassicieh is survived by wife of 34 years Heyam Kassicieh, his two children Charlie and Christina, and his mother and two siblings. The funeral service is Saturday at 9 a.m. at French Mortuary on Wyoming NE.