Talking with Dr. Shiv Gupta on June 25 brought on a mix of feelings. This was the day of his last class as a full-time faculty member in the College of Business. After 45 years with the University his retirement is deserved, but today he’s not enthusiastic.
“You look forward to retirement,” he said wistfully, “but when it comes, it’s not so good.”
One wonders, however, if Dr. Gupta will ever truly “retire.” He is returning as an adjunct to teach two classes this fall, and will continue his involvement in businesses in Sandusky, Ohio. For this visionary and entrepreneur, there is probably some sort of new venture in the wings as well. It would be true to his character!
Gupta has tackled his career and life in general with energy, optimism and gusto. Arriving in Dayton, Ohio from India in 1965 to pursue an MBA, he has always encouraged global awareness among his students and the UF faculty.
“I introduced International Night,” he remembered. “There was a day program targeted to elementary and middle school students. My philosophy was that the earlier children could learn about different cultures, the more open they would be to them as adults.”
Gupta also contributed money to the University for the purpose of providing travel expenses for faculty. He took a group to Europe so they “could teach from experience and see other cultures.”
Small, but growing
There were just a few faculty members in the College of Business and 800 total students on campus when Gupta arrived in Findlay.
“We were losing enrollment,” he remembered. “The Vietnam War and draft did help our numbers, but we needed to publicize our strengths.”
Those strengths were accounting and economics. There wasn’t a dean at that time, but William Templeton, a retired university president, was the division chair. Gupta succeeded Templeton and served as division chair for five years. He was instrumental in adding the majors of marketing, management information systems, and finance.
The College of Business was on a roll. Dr. Nancy Bakaitis approached Gupta to ask about starting a master of business administration (MBA) program. It was just the second graduate program to be offered at UF and it increased the visibility of the College on a national and international level.
“There are a lot of things that build your reputation,” Gupta recalled. “The University had a Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE) team. We were national champion for six years and regional champion for 14 years. A business executive was so impressed, he offered $200,000 to a student who would start a business. One of our graduates used this investment to open a downtown Findlay business called Gifts in Time, which evolved into The Wine Merchant.
Shiv’s business-savvy reputation became well known and he received frequent requests to assist local companies and the community itself. He helped establish Findlay’s Free Enterprise Zone, something he feels is the ‘backbone’ of the city’s success. He also led a research project on the quality of life in Findlay that city representatives showed in Japan and Italy. His project helped lure the first Japanese joint-venture company to the area.
“Findlay will continue to draw high quality employees,” he added. “It’s a peaceful town and the educational system is excellent.”
Motivating young people
With six children of his own, Gupta still never tires of being around young people.
“My philosophy has always been to work with the students. I am strict, but I can motivate my classes.”
Gupta’s son, Vimal Kumar, a physician, oversees his manufacturing and entertainment businesses in Sandusky, Ohio. Gupta is involved in major decisions, but not the day-to-day operations. His other children are scattered across the United States. His wife, Elizabeth “Heather” Kumar, died in 2001.
“We travelled around the world together,” he said. “Now, without her, I don’t wish to travel much.”
In 45 years, the field of business hasn’t changed significantly, according to Gupta. He readily admits that technology has simplified and expedited some processes, but the basic concepts are the same.
“It’s funny,” he laughed. “The Economics textbook was $9.99 when I started teaching and now it’s $225. It’s really the same material. The principals haven’t changed since the late 1800s.”