Remembering the charismatic, creative, and kind Robert G. Dietrich

Robert Dietrich

Robert “Bob” Dietrich is remembered by friends and colleagues as a charismatic, creative, and kind person whose effervescent energy charged up any room he was in. Dietrich, senior associate vice president of university advancement at Northeastern, died unexpectedly earlier this year. He was 63.

“Above all else, Bob loved people—connecting with alumni, spending time with students and their families, participating in events that were important to his colleagues—he cherished the relationships that come with this business,” Diane N. MacGillivray, senior vice president for university advancement, wrote in a message to the members of the university community. 

“An elegant and erudite representative for Northeastern, his passion and persistence, relentless optimism, and a stubborn inability to hear ‘no’ made him a stellar fundraiser. The depth of his care for everyone with whom he interacted made him an irreplaceably good person. His loss is professional. It is also profoundly personal,” she wrote.   

Dietrich is survived by his sons, Jeff and Mark, his parents Otto and Betty (Woolley) Dietrich, and his brother, Rich. 

Dietrich joined Northeastern in 2008, and immediately made an impact, colleagues say. Over the course of 14 years, he raised “tens of millions of dollars” for the university and its global footprint. Dietrich launched global fundraising projects at Northeastern that continue to this day, helping create a path for students from all over the world to thrive at the university.

“Bob was the consummate professional, and he was a terrific representative of the university in every way,” says Luanne Kirwin, vice president of development at Northeastern, who worked with Dietrich for more than a decade.

To celebrate his life, the university is hosting a memorial service on Friday, April 22, at 3:30 p.m. ET on the 17th floor of East Village. Those who would like to attend in person can register online, and a live stream will be available for those who would like to attend virtually.

Additionally, Northeastern’s Giving Office created the Robert G. Dietrich Global Experience Fund in his name. The fund will support students seeking access to education through global experiences.

“Bob not only helped to shape the division but was also responsible for countless gifts to support the university’s faculty and students,” MacGillivray wrote. “The impact of his 14 years of work here can be felt in the Torch Scholarship, the Global Family Business program, and the Social Impact Lab. In Athletics and Dialogues of Civilization. In research labs and in classrooms. In Boston and throughout the Northeastern network.”

During his time at Northeastern, Dietrich traveled widely to cities including: Hong Kong; Singapore; Jakarta, Indonesia; Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; Dubai, United Arab Emirates; Geneva, Switzerland; London; Istanbul, Turkey; and more.

People have posted memories of Dietrich from all over the world on a virtual map, with pins that highlight the depth—and breadth—of his reach.

“Bob was such a visionary to create this transformational global experience for our students,” wrote one person from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

“Full of life and in awe of it!” wrote another, with a video featuring Dietrich in Paris. “This video is a treasure and a reminder to take the time to soak it all in.”

“On and off the stage, Bob worked to advance intergenerational leadership,” wrote someone from Dubai. “This man never stopped! Every time zone had his attention.”

Dietrich’s tireless work ethic and attention to detail meant that no task was too big or too small. Tamara Baringer, principal gifts officer at the university, recalls an instance when she and Dietrich had to scramble to ensure an international family, traveling to Commencement at TD Garden in limousines, would have space to park in the crowded lot and densely trafficked city streets.

“We got it done, but it required some quick-thinking and problem-solving to create a wonderful experience for our guests,” Baringer says, adding that Dietrich had an uncanny ability to make even high-pressure situations fun. “We had a wonderful friendship. He was just a good, good guy all around.”

Mark Krentzman, a 1977 graduate of the D’Amore-McKim School of Business (which was called the Northeastern College of Business Administration at the time), got to know Dietrich about a decade ago through philanthropic ventures.

“He was just a warm, thoughtful, kind, fundraiser,” Krentzman says, adding that the qualities can be hard to find in other fundraising spaces. “He had unusually good emotional intelligence, and I really can’t express my sorrow that he’s not around.”

Indeed, to be a fundraiser at a university, one must be tenacious and intuitive, Baringer says, two qualities Dietrich possessed in spades. At Northeastern, some advancement officers specialize in one college, building out relationships with donors and alumni tailored to the needs of the business school or the law school, for example. Others, like Baringer, work to advance the mission of the university as a whole, and therefore need to understand everything that’s happening in all the colleges, all the time. Dietrich was a centralized advancement officer, too.

“Our job is to provide resources for the university so that we can be the best Northeastern we can be,” she says. “And when you’re assigned to central like Bob and I were, you have to know the whole university. I can tell you: There was no corner of this university he didn’t know.”

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