From the summer 2017 issue of The Spirit of Washington University
From left: Chancellor Emeritus William Danforth, Sidney Guller, and Olin Business School Dean Emeritus Robert Virgil at the November 2016 dedication ceremony for the Guller Classroom in Bauer Hall
Sidney Guller, BSBA ’47, has three words of advice for the Class of 2017: Don’t stop learning. And for more than 37 years, he has supported scholarships that help talented students fulfill their educational aspirations at Washington University.
“There are many intelligent and skilled young people who don’t have the means to attend Washington University,” he says. “I support scholarships so they can receive an excellent education, then graduate and apply what they learned to benefit society.”
Mr. Guller recently committed $500,000 for the Bobbi Guller Memorial Scholarship he established at Olin Business School in 2011 in memory of his wife, Bobette, who died in 2010. He also pledged $300,000, through the Guller Foundation, for the Guller Joint Program Scholarship benefitting students in the 3/2 program that gives undergraduates the opportunity to earn a bachelor’s degree in engineering and an MBA in five years.
As chairman of St. Louis–based Essex Industries, a privately held defense and aerospace manufacturing company, Mr. Guller knows firsthand that engineering and business are complementary disciplines. His late brother Harold, BS ’39, was an engineer who founded Essex Industries. Mr. Guller, who joined the company after he graduated from Washington University in 1947, handled the business and finance side of the operation. The Guller Foundation—the charitable arm of Essex Industries—has supported the 3/2 program since 1986.
A tireless champion of Washington University, Mr. Guller has served on the Olin Business School National Council since 2000. He has supported multiple annual and endowed scholarships and provided funds to name two spaces at the Olin School: the Bobbi and Sidney Guller Lounge in the Knight Center and the Guller Classroom in Bauer Hall. He has received Distinguished Alumni Awards from the university and Olin, which also honored him with the school’s Dean’s Medal for exceptional dedication and service.
Mr. Guller’s wife shared his love for Washington University. “She was incredibly smart, but she never had the chance to go to college,” he explains. “She met Olin School Dean Emeritus Bob Virgil and his wife, Gerry, because I was involved with the university. They really opened her eyes to the importance of scholarships.
“I named a scholarship after Bobbi because I want her to be remembered for helping young people achieve their dreams,” Mr. Guller says.
In 1980, the couple helped found the Olin School’s Scholars in Business program. They hosted annual dinners for the students whose educations they helped fund. Photos of these students are proudly displayed in Mr. Guller’s office at Essex Industries. “In the photos, you can see Bobbi sitting with our scholars as if they were her kids,” he says. “She was very invested in them and their futures.”
Although he no longer hosts dinners for his scholarship recipients, Mr. Guller remains passionate about supporting students—for the good of the university and the students who receive a Washington University education. “I want the university to remain a premier school,” he says. “To be that, we must have the best students, regardless of whether they can afford the tuition.”
—By MaryEllen VanDerHeyden