By Patricia O’Dell
Tom Bloch is stepping up as Foundation chair in July, and he has a strong vision for its role in supporting the mission of the university.
“The [Leon E. Bloch] Law Library is named after my grandfather, who was an attorney in Kansas City. My father has been involved at UMKC for decades,” Bloch says of the man who endowed the Henry W. Bloch School of Management. “While my family’s longtime connection with the university is the reason behind my initial interest in this institution, over the years I’ve become more and more actively engaged.”
Bloch’s relationship with the university gives him the ability to understand both immediate and long-term challenges and opportunities..
“Like most public universities in the United States, UMKC is under increased financial pressure due to a reduction in public funding levels for higher education. Unfortunately, I don’t see that dynamic changing anytime in the future. Consequently, private funding is a more critical component to any public university’s success. The Foundation will continue to have a more central role in identifying and developing additional sources of revenue to assure the university’s growth and viability.”
Bloch sees this as not only essential to the university’s success, but Kansas City’s success as well. He notes that it’s often said that every great city in the world has a great university.
“As an urban, research-focused university, UMKC is perfectly positioned to play a leadership role in Kansas City’s future development. I am encouraged because there is strong momentum within the university, there are growing partnerships with the community, and there are huge opportunities ahead. Much of UMKC’s philanthropic support currently comes from non-alumni. That’s a positive reflection of the number of individuals, businesses and foundations in our community who recognize the value of the university and are committed to its future.”
Beyond his family’s connection to the university, Bloch served as CEO of H&R Block before taking on the role of a social entrepreneur. Bloch left his family business in 1995 to become an inner-city middle school math teacher and, with community leaders Shirley and Barnett Helzberg and Lynne Brown, founded University Academy, an urban K-12 college-preparatory charter public school in 2000.
“Like UMKC, University Academy has grown and evolved over the years. Today, it is recognized in the state of Missouri and also nationally as a highly successful, top-performing school. Considering the importance of education in our society, I am pleased to see University Academy and UMKC achieve high levels of success in this community.”
He notes that UMKC programs such as the Regnier Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation and the Center for Nonprofit Leadership can inspire, nurture and empower the next generation of for-profit and not-for-profit leaders in Kansas City.
Bloch’s first-hand experience in both of these sectors as well as his broad perspective on the challenges and opportunities facing Kansas City will serve him well in his new role as board chair of the UMKC Foundation.