Rhonda Wingfield, director of budget and planning at The University of Toledo, has been named interim CEO of UT Innovation Enterprises (UTIE), officials announced Wednesday.Wingfield will serve in both roles until a permanent CEO is determined.
Joyce McBride, former UT director of budget and planning who is transitioning to flexible work hours as she moves toward retirement and spending more time with her family, has been named assistant director of budget and planning.
“Rhonda has more than 20 years of financial management experience in the public sector, industry and in start-up organizations, and has been highly involved in Innovation Enterprises operations during her tenure at UT,” said C. William Fall, chair of the UTIE Board of Directors. “As we plan for UTIE’s next five years, we are fortunate to have Rhonda’s strategic mind and detailed financial knowledge during this interim period.”
Wingfield, who has overseen the finances of UTIE since shortly after her arrival at UT in 2010, will assume the role created following the separation of the chair and CEO positions, one of several recommendations made following a six-month review of UTIE and its processes led by board member Bill McCreary.
Given the success of UTIE following its establishment in 2009, Wingfield said she was excited to accept the post, though she acknowledged that the nationwide addition of economic development as part of universities’ missions was a cultural change that hasn’t come easily to everyone.
“We have a very promising portfolio, which is still very young. During the years I’ve worked with UTIE, I’ve been incredibly impressed with the innovation and potential of these start-up companies,” Wingfield said.
“Some of our society’s most impressive inventions and advancements have come from university research, and we cannot allow our fear that an individual idea might not pan out to stop us from investing in people and ideas that may strengthen our region economically,” she said.
UT President Lloyd Jacobs said the goal of cultural change encompassed the entire community.
“We have no intention of leaving the next ‘dorm-room business success story’ only to the Harvards or the Stanfords of the world,” Jacobs said. “Our students and our faculty are accomplishing great things in both social and business entrepreneurship. And it is our job to explain to the UT family, to the media, and to the overall community that prudent investment in the ideas of the UT faculty and entrepreneurs is one of the surest routes to long-term and sustained economic growth in northwest Ohio.”
Fall emphasized that stringent due diligence and investment procedures remain in place. With this type of innovation-based economic development, it is clearly a fact that not all such early-stage investments succeed, he said.
“But in the case of Innovation Enterprises, this is an incredibly strong showing for an investment portfolio of this type at this early point in UTIE’s lifespan. Like a mutual fund, you invest in a wide range of organizations knowing that even if some underperform, over the long term the fund as a whole will be successful,” Fall said.
Fall expressed his thanks to all who have worked so hard to make UTIE a success in the first five years: board members, researchers and faculty, students and support staff. He made special mention of McCreary’s contribution, a sentiment Jacobs echoed.
“The University of Toledo and UT Innovation Enterprises is so fortunate to work with a person of such superior personal character, intellect and experience as Bill McCreary. He will play an important role as Bill Fall and Rhonda Wingfield lead UT and this community to continued economic successes,” Jacobs said.