September 15, 2022

CHaSS

Purpose and Passion: Working Together Solidifies Gift from USU Alum to College of Humanities and Social Sciences

Jim Ratcliff

College of CHASS Alum Jim Ratcliff’s prosperous career helped make the idea of giving back to USU a reality. His gift to support the Mehdi Heravi Global Teaching and Learning Center, a new building on USU’s campus slated to begin construction in 2023, impacts the College of Humanities and Social Sciences and the university at large in many ways.

Ask anyone who has spent time on a university campus “What created the most impact during your college experience?” and they often answer “it was the people and places that mattered the most.” Graduates from Utah State University would answer no differently. Great researchers in facilities equipped for discoveries and innovative learning, professors inspiring a student’s career choice, catching up with a friend on the Quad after a morning of classes, creating life-long connections with those who support and encourage you long after graduation. These are the people and places that make the difference.

This was certainly true for USU alum Jim Ratcliff, who learned as an undergraduate that gaining knowledge is not the only outcome of earning a college degree — it’s the friends, the contacts, those who learn alongside you and those who teach you that ultimately impact who you become.

“Purpose brings meaning to one’s life,” Jim said. “Choosing the right university is one of the most important decisions you will make in your life because it has the potential to make you realize your purpose, spark a passion and find meaning in life.”

Jim, with his father Perry A. Ratcliff, at an event at Colorado State University Pueblo. Perry founded Rowpar, a company that focuses on innovative oral care products. Jim took over as CEO in 2000
Jim, with his father Perry A. Ratcliff, at an event at Colorado State University Pueblo. Perry founded Rowpar, a company that focuses on innovative oral care products. Jim took over as CEO in 2000.

Jim, with his wife, Barbara, a fellow higher education professional who served as provost at Colorado State University Pueblo, on a trip to Maligne Lake in Jasper National Park (Alberta).
Jim, with his wife, Barbara, a fellow higher education professional who served as provost at Colorado State University Pueblo, on a trip to Maligne Lake in Jasper National Park (Alberta).

College choice, however, is an imperfect art and Jim found that out after enrolling in the mid-1960s to Raymond College, a small liberal arts school within the University of the Pacific with a student body of 150 people. Jim discovered that, while Raymond was a terrific experience, it wasn’t the best fit for him. After two years, he looked elsewhere. And while the obvious criteria of finding a school that would provide him challenges and opportunities was near the top of his mind, Jim was also looking for a school that had a lot of trees.

“I applied to Utah State, Oregon State and Cal Poly Humboldt,” Jim said. “USU came through and admitted me with academic probation since Raymond didn’t provide letter grades and I had no GPA to share. USU also offered a spot in the University Honors Program.”

At USU, Jim found not only his purpose, but his passion, graduating with a bachelor’s in history in 1968.

“USU is very important to me and it is really where I fell in love with being on a university campus,” Jim said. “My time there impacted my life’s direction and the many successes I have achieved since leaving USU.”

After graduating from USU, Jim went on to earn a master’s in history and a doctorate in higher education administration, both from Washington State University, that further cemented his dedication to the pursuit of learning.

“Land-grant universities are in my blood,” Jim said. “I believe in the power of higher education and know how important it is to never stop discovering.”

Jim’s love of learning inspired him to donate to USU’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences.  Beginning in 2016, Jim donated stock in Rowpar Pharmaceuticals (maker of the CloSYS brand of toothpaste and mouth rinse), continuing with regular gifts through 2021. In 2022, the company was merged into and acquired by Arcadia Consumer Healthcare, liquidating the stock for cash.

From the outset, Jim worked closely with college development officers and CHaSS Dean Joe Ward. He wanted the gift to go to the area where it was most needed.

“I know the struggles that universities face, in particular the challenges administrators face when it comes to budget limitations and allocations,” Jim said.

Together, Dean Ward and Jim decided his gift would support the Mehdi Heravi Global Teaching and Learning Center, a new building on USU’s campus slated to begin construction in 2023.  Designed to create an inspiring and welcoming environment for language and international students, the gathering spaces and classrooms within the new building will facilitate learning opportunities for USU students to graduate with a broader understanding of cross-culture peacebuilding and expanded international views. The building will be prominently located between Ray B. West and Old Main.

Jim’s prosperous career helped make the idea of giving back to USU a reality. His extensive experience in higher education administration included time at both Iowa State University and Pennsylvania State University, where he oversaw prestigious programs in higher education administration. He also lent his expertise to other colleges, universities, accrediting agencies, NGOs and ministries of education, where he worked as a consultant to assess the programs, services, policies and practices in countries located around the world.

In tandem with his consulting and in a seemingly different, but applicable career trajectory, Jim ended up in product development. The career shift came about because Jim’s father, Perry A. Ratcliff, needed his son’s assistance with his company when he was faced with health challenges. The transition was more natural than it might seem as Rowpar, which focuses on developing innovative oral care products, required leadership that worked closely with top-level researchers on university campuses. Beginning in 2000, Jim assumed management of a $500,000-per-year revenue company. Jim remained as CEO for 22 years and was proud to see a revenue of nearly $14 million in sales in 2021 thanks, in large part, to his efforts in getting the mouth rinse officially recognized by the American Dental Association. Business analysts report that most small firms fail in the first 10 years, and few have a history of consistent revenue growth of more than 5 years.

The sale of Rowpar worked well for its shareholders and for its CloSYS brand. Jim knew this was the right next step in order to provide for further growth and product development for Rowpar, since Arcadia had the resources and staffing to provide enhanced research and greater market research capabilities. The successful merger also provided USU with the opportunity to apply the proceeds to the Mehdi Heravi Global Teaching and Learning Center right as construction was beginning. Jim’s ability to give back to USU extended to other universities as well. Together, with his wife, Barbara, a university professor and administrator, Jim joined with other donors to create an endowed chair in periodontology at the University of California San Francisco in honor of his dad.

Jim’s gift to USU impacts the College of Humanities and Social Sciences and the university at large in many ways. Discretionary gifts make a difference because they allow administrators to use the funds for specific unit priorities that are continually evolving. It is a generous and practical way to give that allows a dean or department head to use the funds for various things such as equipment acquisition, faculty teaching awards or career development, student competitions, conference travel, special events, building renovations and more.

“Jim’s incredibly successful and multifaceted career epitomizes the path of a lifelong learner, which is a great example for our students to keep in mind,” said CHaSS Dean Joseph Ward. “We are tremendously grateful for Jim’s generosity. His early investment was powerfully encouraging at a crucial moment in the project’s development.”

Since retiring this summer, Jim’s dedication and drive to make a difference, remain.

 “My dad always told me that I have a limited time on this earth and that I needed to make my mark,” Jim said. “This continually motivates me to do what I can to help the next generations.”

As students walk the halls and attend classes and lectures in the building, as learners from other countries and cultures come together to share and learn from one another, and as professors create a welcoming environment for Aggies from all over the world, Jim’s gift will leave a mark at Utah State University. And as students make these connections in the halls and classrooms of this building, they will leave USU prepared to enter the increasingly global society with a network of allies who give them not only friendship, but a better understanding of the cultural settings in which they will be working and living.


Contact

Justin Barton
CHaSS, Senior Development Director
435-797-4473
justin.barton@usu.edu

Emily Heaton
CHaSS, Development Director
(435) 797-0267
emily.heaton@usu.edu


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