Your connection to the University of Michigan-Dearborn | Fall 2019

Why I Give: A Path Forward

Bob and Colleen Picchi sitting for a portrait in their home
Bob and Colleen Picchi sitting for a portrait in their home
Wanting to give back and help students reach their goals, Bob and Colleen Picchi created an endowed College of Arts, Sciences, and Letters scholarship Photo by: Tracy Brewer

Wanting to give back and help students reach their goals, Bob and Colleen Picchi created an endowed College of Arts, Sciences, and Letters scholarship.

Bob Picchi (’81 B.G.S.) considers himself a guy with a simple story that features extraordinary people. 

He grew up blue collar, working in the steel mill after high school like nearly everyone in his Pennsylvania hometown. It was there that he began to meet what he calls “a string of helpful people who mentored me and showed me a path forward.” 

Picchi has story after story of steel mill colleagues, managers, college admissions counselors and more — people he met while living life — who assisted him in the career climb to where he is today: a successful entrepreneur heading up Blue Ridge Advisory Services Group. 

Picchi attributes his first career move to his U.S. Steel colleagues’ confidence in him, which pushed him to look for management roles outside of Pittsburgh and landed him at McLouth Steel in Trenton, Michigan. 

While at McLouth, he was encouraged to go to college by his supervisors through a UM-Dearborn/industry education partnership program. “They gave the OK for me to go to class at noon and make up for any missed time on nights or weekends. That was huge.” 

While on campus, Picchi found an understanding admissions counselor who saw his sincere commitment to education and understood that high school grades from a decade before — which Picchi called a bit underwhelming — shouldn’t define potential. 

“I knew Michigan was a top-tier school, and a college education was necessary to move in the direction that I wanted to go. The admissions counselor gave me a chance. I had to maintain a certain grade point average in my first semester, which I did. Not a very flattering story, but it’s the truth. I’m telling it to remind people to not define themselves by their past and to give others a chance, too.” 

It wasn’t always easy for Picchi, who attributes tenacity and creative thinking to his success. He earned his college diploma at 26 and considers that a game changer. 

“I don’t have one defining professional moment, but my U-M graduation was an important one. It opened the door for additional opportunities like corporate positions and graduate school,” said Picchi, who went on to earn an M.B.A. from Duke’s Fuqua School of Business. 

He shared that even the idea of pursuing a graduate degree at Duke was sparked by a colleague and mentor he met at Emerson Electric’s Missouri corporate office, which is where Picchi worked after McLouth Steel closed. 

Thinking about the extraordinary people in their lives, Picchi and his wife, Colleen — they met at McLouth Steel and have been married 40 years — recently reflected on ways they could give back. They have created an endowed College of Arts, Sciences, and Letters (CASL) scholarship: The Robert and Colleen Picchi Scholarship. 

Picchi also joined the CASL Dean’s Advisory Council, where he uses his project management and strategic planning consultant experience to help move his college forward. 

“Colleen and I wanted to do something with a long-term focus on paying forward the profound impact UM-Dearborn has had on our lives,” he said. “I am standing on the shoulders of many people who took an interest in helping me succeed. Colleen and I want to be those shoulders for others.”

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