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George and Susan Matelich

Susan and George Matelich, MBA '82, support students at three universities. PHOTO: Kevin D. Welsh

Investor Bets on Business Students

George Matelich, MBA '82, gives $1 million for GSB fellowships.

Winter 2013

You wouldn't call George Matelich a slacker now. He's a managing director of the private equity investment firm Kelso & Co. and a father of three. But at age 12, he was a "classic underachiever," in his own words, adrift in the working-class town of SeaTac, Wash.—until the moment his mother pointed to a gas station attendant.

"She said, 'That's you in a few years if you don't decide to do a better job in school,'" says Matelich. Her challenge lit a fire under him. By high school graduation, Matelich was in the top five in his class.

After that fateful conversation with his mom, he had also begun saving for college. Mistletoe, newspapers, wrapping paper, freshly laid eggs from his own chickens—you name it, he sold it door to door. ("Which teaches you something about tenacity… and rejection," Matelich recalls.)

But his savings weren't enough for tuition. It was a scholarship to the University of Puget Sound that became his golden ticket to higher education—as was a fellowship to the Stanford Graduate School of Business six years later. 

Today, Matelich and his wife, Susan, both the first in their families to graduate from four-year universities, have made supporting first-generation college and graduate students a cornerstone of their philanthropy.

The Larchmont, N.Y., couple already had established undergraduate scholarships at the University of Puget Sound and Vanderbilt University, the alma mater of their two eldest children. Matelich's decision to establish a $1 million fund for fellowships at the Stanford Graduate School of Business is their latest move to support aspiring scholars.

Matelich, MBA '82, is no stranger to the GSB. A dedicated contributor to the Dean's Fund, he is also a member of the GSB Advisory Council and frequent reunion volunteer. But he says he wanted to make a gift that reflected the magnitude of what his training at Stanford gave him.

Financial aid launched a career that has allowed him to dream big, both professionally and philanthropically. In addition to supporting higher education, the Mateliches are working to preserve 3.6 million acres in north-central Montana (an area 50 percent larger than Yellowstone National Park) as board members with the American Prairie Reserve.

Matelich's dual philanthropic interests complement each other. He says the immediate satisfaction of helping students afford education balances his work with the American Prairie Reserve, where progress is measured not in quarters but in decades.

After all, he's seen firsthand the advantages of planning for the future.

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