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An Entrepreneur of Entrepreneurs

January 7, 2019
two people standing in front of a fence
Pat and Kathi Rile in front of the Chapel of the Transfiguration in Grand Teton National Park, where they were married years before.

A champion of entrepreneurship, alumnus Pat Rile went from striving cookware salesman to successful investment adviser.

By Tamara Linse

“We are all entrepreneurs—in the broadest definition—and leaders,” says alumnus Pat Rile, retired financial advisor. “You are primarily responsible for your own success.”

Entrepreneurship is not just about starting a business, Rile says. It’s about leadership and creativity and being proactive. And, like so many things in life, it’s about relationships.

“Everybody thinks entrepreneurs start technology companies,” Rile says. “That’s only one little piece of it. Ninety-nine percent of us say to ourselves, ‘I’m not creative,’ but in fact we’re a lot more creative than we think we are. And it’s about leadership—every parent is a leader, good, bad or indifferent. These are the kinds of things you do in relationships—in businesses and in offices and in families.”

That’s why he and his wife, Kathi, an alumna of the College of Arts and Sciences, established the Rile Chair of Entrepreneurship and Leadership—to teach entrepreneurship in the College of Business through an endowed faculty position that supports program development, education, research and service. Dedicated UW benefactors, the Riles have also supported facilities, excellence funds, scholarships, athletics and the colleges of Business, Arts and Sciences, and Health Sciences. Rile is a College of Business Distinguished Alumnus, is on the UW Foundation Board of Directors and has served as board chair.

Rile says, “I hope the chair is a catalyst for planting seeds and capturing an understanding by young people that they need to be proactive, they need to be accountable, help them see they’re much more creative than they think they are. They can do much more than they might expect.”

The chair was recently filled by entrepreneurship expert Patrick Kreiser, “a true evangelist for the power of entrepreneurship”. Kreiser writes, “The entrepreneurial mindset is the foundation stone underlying all of the unspoiled wonder and grandeur of Wyoming. It is the wide-open spaces. It is controlling your own destiny. It is knowing the value of self-reliance, while also knowing that it is through others that we accomplish anything truly great. It is having the confidence to blaze your own trail, while maintaining the humility to willingly be a servant to others.”

The university is full steam ahead with its robust entrepreneurship programs, which include a major and a minor, a yearly entrepreneurship summit, the John P. Ellbogen $50K Entrepreneurship Competition, the new Institute of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, and the Fisher Innovation Launchpad through the Wyoming Technology Business Center, among other things. The state, too, is boosting initiatives that diversify our economy with the ENDOW (Economically Needed Diversity Options for Wyoming) program.

Rile really appreciates the university’s focus on entrepreneurship: “I couldn’t be more excited that President Nichols had the vision and leadership to do this. That’s huge. That is fundamentally changing—in the most positive way—the university and its potential success. How exciting for you guys.”

Rile first knew he could be an effective entrepreneur in high school when he sold souvenir programs at the Cheyenne Frontier Days rodeo. Then, in college, times were tough, and he needed a job. He worked as “a hasher” in a sorority. “I thought I had stolen the golden treasure,” Rile says. “It was the best thing going—your meals were free, and it only took an hour to hour and a half a couple times a day.”

But then he was hired as a traveling salesman: “That’s very entrepreneurial, straight commission, driving around in my car selling cookware to nice young single working girls. It was a real confidence builder because I was successful at it.” He was so successful that he expanded, hiring people to sell in Casper and Billings. “It’s a lot easier to sell securities and work with clients than it is to sell cookware,” Rile says. “Cookware is tough, like selling encyclopedias or Fuller Brushes.”

This experience launched him right out of college into a 50-year career in investing. He worked as a financial adviser for Dain Bosworth/RBC, Wells Fargo and Wachovia, among others. And he still loves what he does: “There’s a meaning and purpose in that—you can really be life-changing, helping to plan people’s future.”

Rile explains that an investment of $1,000 at age 22 will grow to be approximately $64,000 at age 62 at  the standard rate of investment growth of 9.2 percent with dividends. That’s without adding another penny. “Time and compound interest is the pot of gold,” he says.

Now that Rile is retired—or, as  he says, on permanent sabbatical—he’s thinking a lot more about what’s important.

“The older you get,” Rile says, “the more you look back and ask, ‘What were the most important things that influenced your life?’ ” He smiles broadly. “Everything important in my life happened at the University  of Wyoming.”

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