A Commitment to Giving Back
Bob Glassman’s (MBA ’69) longstanding support of HBS—particularly the HBS student fellowship he established in 1984—is rooted in his commitment to society, community, and social responsibility. That commitment is also part and parcel of his business success. As he told the HBS Bulletin on the occasion of his 25th Reunion, “There’s an interface between our business [Wainwright Bank & Trust Company] and my philanthropic interests. I really do not know where the boundaries are between these two areas, and that gives me a very good feeling.”
With John Plukas (MBA ’68), with whom he had previously founded HCW Oil and Gas, an oil-industry real estate and investment firm, Glassman launched Wainwright Bank in 1987. The bank became nationally known for its socially progressive, community-oriented philosophy and practices. At one point, it counted more than 600 nonprofit groups among its customers, as the bank aggressively supported environmental, HIV/AIDS, affordable housing, and homeless causes and issues. In 2007, Glassman won the Boston Business Journal’s “CEO Social Leadership Award” and a “Community Banker of the Year” award from American Banker newspaper. “We have to have products that are competitive and an atmosphere that’s friendly for our customers, but I’d like to believe a lot of folks come to us beyond that because we have an outreach to the community,” Glassman told the Boston Business Journal in 2009. Last spring, Wainwright Bank was sold to and merged with Eastern Bank, with Glassman continuing to serve as a director.
Glassman’s values were shaped to a large extent in the crucible of the 1960s ferment around social-justice issues. The product of an inner-city high school in Jersey City, New Jersey, Glassman graduated from Rutgers University in 1964 and enlisted in the US Army. After serving as a platoon leader in Vietnam, he returned home to a society increasingly preoccupied with the Southeast Asia conflict and the struggle for civil rights for African Americans. With the help of the GI Bill, Glassman spent the latter part of that tumultuous decade at HBS.
Over the years, dozens of HBS students who otherwise would have been unable to afford an HBS education—young people from inner-city, working-class backgrounds like his own—have benefited from Glassman’s fellowship.
Asked why he established the fellowship and what it means to him, Glassman says, “Business enterprises have finite lives. However, I believe that a commitment to social justice will live on through the work of the 60 individuals who over the past three decades have been recipients of the fellowship. It’s that legacy that I hope to pass on to my children.”