“I was your worst skeptic. I was your nightmare alumna.”
That’s how Lisa Rich-Milan ’85, now among UD’s most loyal supporters, identified herself more than a decade ago. She shares how she was able to again love UD by drawing on the experiences of her undergraduate days — but only after UD proved it was worthy.
Rich-Milan came to UD attracted by the strength of the accounting program. She was a hard worker and found students and faculty she could rely on. That included students in the Black fraternities, sororities and student organizations. Her junior year, she joined Alpha Kappa Alpha.
“My connection was with the Divine Nine” — the name for the foundational Black fraternities and sororities — “and with the upperclassmen who had walked the walk, talked the talk,” she said.
An internship helped her apply classroom lessons to the business world. She graduated with three job offers and chose Bristol-Meyers Squibb. Her career as an accountant didn’t last long, as mentors and supervisors readied her for ever-increasing opportunities to build her business skills in pharmaceuticals and biotech. This spring, she will take the helm of a biopharmaceutical research and product development company, her fifth appointment as CEO.
It was while she was CEO of CompuNet Clinical Laboratories, based in the Dayton area, that she reached out to UD to suggest a partnership — offering students hands-on training in medical diagnostics while helping Compunet build a talented and diverse workforce.
Her alma mater responded that it was not interested.
“I felt like UD was reaching out for financial support but not really interested in paving the way so that other students could be successful,” she said.
Fast forward a decade. Carlos Stewart, then a development director at UD, reached out to make a connection. Rich-Milan told him she wasn’t interested — and told him why.
We’ve changed, he said. Prove it, she replied. He shared the Flyers Plan for Community Excellence, and she read it. She heard about the steps already being taken to make UD more inclusive and support all students. And then the conversation began.
Since 2020, Rich-Milan has volunteered on UD’s Business Advisory Council, its first African American female member. She returned to campus in September 2021 for the Black Alumni Reunion and spoke with students about what they need to succeed. She supported students by giving to the Dean’s Fund and Multi-Ethnic Education and Engagement Center. She is endowing a scholarship in honor of her undergraduate sorority, the Epsilon Chi chapter.
“I would’ve never gotten to this point if the school didn’t value diversity and put a program in place for it.”
“I would’ve never gotten to this point if the school didn’t value diversity and put a program in place for it. And when I say diversity, I’m not saying just African Americans, I’m saying any diversity — diversity of thought, background, culture, female-to-male ratios — all of those things,” she said.
Her current focus is on supporting all students with curriculum, internship and mentoring opportunities, wanting every student to have experiences like she did at UD.
“UD built my work ethic,” she said. “You have to study hard. You have to be resourceful. You have to understand the system. It taught me how to go do that.”
And now she is helping today’s students do the same.