Michael David Dingman, benefactor and namesake of the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business, died on Oct. 3, 2017, at his home in Lyford Cay, Bahamas. He was 86.
“Michael Dingman inspired and empowered hundreds of entrepreneurs for decades,” Smith School dean Alexander Triantis said. “The entrepreneurship center that bears his name has served students for more than 30 years, and the impact will continue to grow throughout the world.”
Dingman was born on Sept. 29, 1931, in New Haven, Conn., and attended the University of Maryland before leaving to launch a Wall Street career, where he became best-known in the investment community as what one major magazine called a “dealmaker extraordinaire.” Over the decades he served as chief executive or president of several U.S.-based industrial corporations, including Wheelabrator-Frye, Signal Companies, AlliedSignal and its Henley Group spinoff, which he took through a $1.2 billion IPO. He later moved to the Bahamas, where he founded and served as president and CEO of diversified international holding company Shipston Group until his death.
He also served as a director of Ford Motor Company, Time Inc. and Time Warner Inc., Mellon Bank, Temple Industries, Continental Telephone Company and Teekay Shipping Corporation. He became a nonexecutive director of GeoPark Limited in 2017.
Dingman called himself an “eclectic-type person” in a 1985 New York Times profile. “If there was a typical Dingman day I would change it,” he said. “New horizons are necessary to keep me mentally interested.” He became increasingly active as a philanthropist, giving money to support education, hospitals, the environment and social organizations that supported people through tough economic times. “To see the average working man suffer is more than we care to witness without trying to do something about it,” he said in 1992.
During the Dingman Center’s 25th anniversary celebration in 2010, Dingman challenged students to “get to work” to make the world a better place. “I grew up in a time when America built huge infrastructure projects, like the interstate highway system, shipyards, airports, massive dams—matched only by our even greater investment in public schools and universities,” he told the students. “These were monumental achievements. Americans could do that again, here and around the world.”
Dingman made his final trip to the University of Maryland on May 4, 2017, for the third annual Rudy Awards, named for former dean and Dingman Center founding director Rudolph Lamone.
“Mike Dingman’s ability to overcome obstacles, to see what others could not see, to persist in the face of adversity and to defy conventional wisdom is at the heart of his success as an entrepreneur and his entrepreneurial ventures,” Lamone said. “His spirit of joy and his kindness will live with us forever.”
Smith School professor Anil K. Gupta, the Michael D. Dingman Chair in Strategy and Entrepreneurship, said he was most impressed by Dingman’s deep commitment to the field of entrepreneurship. “It was equally impressive to see that, through his investments, he was tracking the emergence of new technology companies not just in the United States but also worldwide — in particular China,” Gupta said.
Dingman Center executive director Elana Fine said Dingman's gift to launch the center more than 30 years ago catalyzed a movement of entrepreneurship education across the nation and now the globe.
“By associating his name with our center, he put a stamp of approval on the concept of entrepreneurship as an academic discipline and paved the way for other business leaders, deans and college presidents to make similar investments,” she said. “At that time there were only three other entrepreneurship centers and now there are over 300 centers of entrepreneurship, including many that bear the name of successful business leaders.”
Dingman also founded of the Centre for Entrepreneurship at the College of the Bahamas and rebuilt the Lyford Cay International School, helping it double its enrollment and achieve international accreditation. He was a donor to and trustee of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and the John A. Hartford Foundation.
In 2017, Marquis Who’s Who gave him a lifetime achievement award “for his significant achievements, leadership qualities and the credentials and successes he has accrued in his field.”
Dingman is survived by his wife Elizabeth and their three sons: Jamie, David and Patrick. He also had three children from an earlier marriage: Linda, Michael Jr. and James.