Riries provide $3.5 million lead gift to Cornell athletics campaign

That Scott Ririe ’79 has a strong work ethic was clear from his first semester at Cornell College.  

Ririe considered himself “skinny” when he arrived to study biology and play defensive back for the Rams. He lifted weights every night after practice that fall, gaining 30 pounds and earning the first of his four letters in football. 

Shelley and Scott Ririe '79 (from left) and their children Elise, Mike, Andy, and James. Scott and Shelley Ririe gave a $3.5 million lead gift to Cornell's Athletic and Wellness Facilities Project.
Shelley and Scott Ririe ’79 (from left) and their children Elise, Mike, Andy, and James. Scott and Shelley Ririe gave a $3.5 million lead gift to Cornell’s Athletic and Wellness Facilities Project.

Now a Cornell Trustee, Ririe and his wife, Shelley, have generously provided a lead gift of $3.5 million for the Athletic and Wellness Facilities Project. The project is a $19.5 million expansion and renovation of the Small Sport Center—the same place he worked so hard his first fall on campus. 

“I see it as a huge recruiting tool,” Ririe said. “Having a state-of-the-art facility like this means that it provides a platform for which all students can contribute to their health and wellness.”

Work on the project, part of Cornell’s Greater > Than Campaign, begins this spring and is scheduled for completion in the fall of 2022.

“I’m grateful for Scott and Shelley’s leadership and generous spirit,” said Cornell President Jonathan Brand. “Their belief in the power of Cornell to change lives inspires me. This project, and their gift, will help us recruit more students and change even more lives.”

Ririe came to Cornell from Des Moines, Iowa, after his older brother (Todd Ririe ’73) set up a campus visit. Ririe graduated with friends for life and skills developed in small classes that he said propelled his career as a successful entrepreneur and business owner. 

At Cornell if you missed a class, that professor was asking, where was Scott?” Ririe said. “The teachers cared and they were there to help you if you cared. Nothing was easy but you learned. That prepared me to learn the skills that put me where I am now.”

Ririe began his career in sales at Honeywell International in Des Moines. He became a sales manager based in St. Louis, where he was soon promoted to district general manager. In 2000 he and a business partner founded the CTS Group, an energy service company that eventually operated in nine states with 150 employees and revenue of $150 million annually. Last year he sold CTS and now is busy with 10 LLC projects and board positions. 

Those positions currently include the Cornell College Board of Trustees, Easterseals Midwest, and along with Shelley, the White River Advisory Council to Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris. He has also served on the General Motors advisory board and was treasurer for the National Association of Energy Service Companies. 

Scott and Shelley met in high school and dated through college while Shelley studied business nearby at the University of Iowa. They are based in the St. Louis area and also spend time at their home on Table Rock Lake, Missouri, near where Shelley runs the Branson West Marine and Powersports dealership. They have four children: 

  • Andy, 35, is a paramedic studying to become a physician’s assistant.
  • Mike, 32, is a commercial real estate appraiser in Chicago.
  • Elise, 31, is a pharmaceutical sales representative who is married and living in Cleveland, Ohio.
  •  James, 22, is a 2020 graduate of the University of Mississippi School of Business Administration now completing a master’s degree.

Ririe joined the Cornell Board of Trustees in 2019, which he said has trained him to understand the financial dynamics of small colleges and the importance of recruiting a geographically and demographically diverse student body—including the student-athletes who make up 36% of Cornell’s population. 

Cornell’s Athletic and Wellness Facilities Project provided the ideal outlet for the Ririe’s philanthropy. Current and future Cornell students will reap the benefits.

Naming opportunities remain available for this project. Contact Kristi Webster Columbus ’96 or A.J. Plummer for information.