Douglas Berthiaume started at the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 1967 as an engineering major, a subject he said he immediately learned was “not my forte.” He quickly switched into the Isenberg School of Management, where after a few accounting classes, he was hooked on business.
After graduating in 1971, Berthiaume went on to have a successful business career that saw him rise to become chairman and chief executive officer of Waters Corp., a Milford-based lab equipment company.
The now-retired CEO never forgot his alma mater.
Berthiaume and his wife, Diana, have donated $20 million to support and expand faculty research and endow new faculty positions and professorships at Isenberg, the university announced Thursday.
“I came from a working-class family and UMass was the best affordable school that I could attend in my youth, so I was appreciative of being able to get the kind of education I [got] there,” Berthiaume said in an interview with the Globe. “As I made my way through the world and had some success, I reconnected with UMass and with the leadership and was brought into a circle that could philanthropically support the institution.”
The donation is the largest ever made to the Isenberg. The university plans to rename the Isenberg School’s Business Innovation Hub in honor of them, the university said in a press release.
“Doug and Diana Berthiaume have been instrumental in establishing UMass as a hub for entrepreneurial thinking and innovation,” UMass Amherst Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy said in the statement. “Their support has been essential in Isenberg’s success over the past decade and we are deeply grateful for this new support.”
Berthiaume is the founding director of the UMass Amherst Foundation. He and his wife have previously given more than $16 million to the university. The Berthiaume Center for Entrepreneurship was named for the couple after a $10 million donation in 2014.
Berthiaume, also the chairman of the Boston Children’s Hospital board of trustees, said he and Diana Berthiaume aim their philanthropic efforts at institutions that will benefit young people.
“The university has done well over the last 10 years with Chancellor Subbaswamy,” Berthiaume said, who was awarded an honorary doctor of laws degree in 2005. “I’d like to see that growth and reputation and capability improve over the next 10 years under the new chancellor.”
The gift will kickstart a new fundraising campaign to benefit UMass Amherst. As a member of the gifts committee on the campaign, Berthiaume said he hopes it will inspire others to support the university.
“It’s almost always important, in the early phase of a campaign, for the leaders to be models,” Berthiaume said. “I felt it was important for me to provide that leadership.”
Sonel Cutler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @cutler_sonel.