Lou Wigdor, Isenberg marketing and communications, a well-known staff member in the Isenberg School of Management, has announced his retirement after 40 years with UMass Amherst.
Wigdor has a strong interest in social science, having completed one year of an anthropology Ph.D. program at Rutgers before deciding to search for work in Amherst. “With that background, I probably had a greater tolerance for jargon,” he says. “But it’s diminished over the years.”
In the four decades since Wigdor joined Isenberg’s staff, his colleagues have learned to appreciate more than just the articles and profiles he writes about. They count on him for book and music recommendations, as well as for his deep institutional knowledge, his trademark satirical commentary, and his willingness to participate in (or be the cheerful victim of) office pranks.
Wigdor, whose son Ariel Wigdor is currently a 4th-year Isenberg Ph.D. student in management information systems, developed his unorthodox approach to academia early in his career. When he joined the Isenberg staff in 1980, he had already been doing contract work for the school, skimming books and articles and summarizing them for the former publication, Management Research.
Wigdor has assiduously explained and demystified business jargon for the past four decades, writing about faculty research projects, classroom projects, alumni careers, and student initiatives. During the 1980s, he founded Isenberg’s quarterly alumni magazine, The Commonwealth, in which Wigdor wrote and edited 100% of every issue himself and collaborated with the university’s publications staff to have it designed and printed. Isenberg’s administrators trusted him to tell the right stories.
“I self-indulgently wrote an entire magazine devoted to a 2006 trip to China I went on with a group of MBA students, led by Alan Robinson,” he says, referring to a professor of operations and information management. “The country was really gaining steam as an international economic power and the Olympics were two years away, so they were trying to clean up Beijing.”
As paper has given way to pixels, more of Wigdor’s stories appear online, though his work always finds its way into Isenberg’s annual dean’s report, departmental newsletters, program brochures, event programs, promotional videos, speeches, emails, and social media posts. The school’s changing profile and priorities over his tenure at Isenberg have made for a continuous bounty of interesting subjects to write about.
“Tom O’Brien, who became dean in 1987, was my mentor,” Wigdor says. “He is completely unstuffy and really smart. He’s also a very well-educated student of public policy and he’s irreverent, which has always been a plus for me.”
O’Brien appreciates Lou’s perspective and his personality. “Lou and his sense of humor, his wonderful zany self, and his ability to capture the context of the Isenberg School and history of the university, are qualities we cannot replace,” he says. “Lou is unique.”
“Lou has always been a great source of musical knowledge,” says Kim Figueroa, director of internships, who counts on his recommendations. “The depth of his listening across so many genres has been an inspiration over the years.”
Many colleagues depend on his literary suggestions as well. “I would bump into him regularly at Amherst Coffee where I escaped after class, and we would often have a chat about the latest book he was reading,” says Nikunj Kapadia, the chair of the finance department. “He’s become my go-to-person for recommendations of books that I would not otherwise have come across.”
Although Wigdor is retiring from full-time employment in Isenberg’s marketing and communications department, he has signed on to continue helping write the school’s stories as a contract employee. That comes as a relief to his colleagues, who can’t imagine Isenberg without him.