Mike Ricci says he had three great opportunities during the early years of his life. “One was getting shipped overseas to England,” the businessman and philanthropist recalls. “Another was going to school at Loyola. And the third was getting out in the world and working.”
The trip to England came courtesy of the United States Air Force — Ricci enlisted when he was 17. While in the United Kingdom, Ricci met his wife, Sheila. Today, the couple endows the Ricci Family Business Excellence Scholarship. The award is given annually to at least one and sometimes multiple “highly qualified, needy students with an entrepreneurial emphasis,” according to the College of Business Administration website.
Ricci first arrived at Loyola (before the merger with Marymount College) after hitching a ride from the Nellis Air Force Base near Las Vegas. “I’ll always look back at those years in time as a really great beginning,” Ricci says.
Strong-willed and open-minded, Ricci left home when he was 14; he finished high school while living with an uncle. “Most of my young life,” Ricci says, “I tried to figure things out for myself.” That included reading Plato as a teenager — even if not yet fully comprehending the text’s meaning. At Loyola, Ricci took an immediate liking to his required logic class, where he re-read the words of that ancient Greek.
Ricci would go on to earn a bachelor’s degree in business administration while majoring in accounting. He would then work for a Big Eight accounting firm before launching his own business, Marco Manufacturing Inc. This enterprise grew to become the nation’s leading fireplace manufacturer and supplier to new houses.
Ricci says he loved many of Loyola’s mission-driven signature courses, in addition to his entrepreneurship and other business studies. “All that philosophy and theology awakened a very creative spirit,” Ricci says. “It allowed me to use my mind a lot more than I ever did before to think and figure out things for myself.”
As for emerging entrepreneurs today, what words of wisdom does this distinguished Lion — a member of the LMU Alumni Entrepreneurship Wall of Honor and winner of the Distinguished Entrepreneurial Alumnus Award — have to share?
“I just hope that when they enter the world of business and create something really wonderful,” Ricci says, “that they are creating wealth for not only themselves but for the rest of society.”
Jeremy Rosenberg is a Los Angeles-based writer. His works on a wide variety of topics have appeared in dozens of anthologies, magazines and websites. Follow or contact him @LosJeremy.