As a teenager in Maine, Martha DiMatteo Vorlicek ’81 was a hard-working student unsure of her career path save one thing: She didn’t want to go into health care like her older sister. One day, her father, John R. DiMatteo ’53, P’81 ’84, approached her with an idea.
“Have you ever thought about business?” he asked. Not really, she said. She didn’t know what business entailed, and her high school classes didn’t focus on it.
Her dad told her about Babson College, and she applied early. It was a life-changing decision, eventually leading her to become chief operating officer of HarbourVest Partners, LLC, one of the world’s largest private equity managers.
As a high school student, though, Vorlicek only knew that leaving Maine for a campus close to Boston would be a culture shock.
“Coming to the big city was really exciting. But, Babson was small, and the access to professors was wonderful,” she recalls.
Vorlicek studied accounting, which was both a challenge and a passion. It offered exciting access to a variety of industries from a financial perspective, but the coursework was rigorous.
“I had to work at it. I think I rose to the occasion,” she says. “You’re learning about all these different industries from a top-down perspective, by reviewing their financial statements and ensuring that they accurately represent their activities and financial position.”
For her career achievements and commitments to Babson, Vorlicek will be presented with an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree at the College’s undergraduate Commencement ceremony May 13.
Path of Success
After graduation, Vorlicek accepted a job with what is EY (formerly Ernst & Young, but then Ernst & Whinney), focusing on its entrepreneurial and emerging businesses practice. It was a bold move: In the early 1980s, the accounting industry was still largely dominated by men.
“Ernst was very cutting-edge in the day with regard to women in the workplace. We were definitely the minority, but they were groundbreaking in making work-life balance work, particularly for women. When I started my family, I cut back my workload a bit, and they were very accommodating,” she recalls. “It was a wonderful path for someone coming right out of college who wanted a business career.”
She then went on to Hancock Venture Partners (now HarbourVest Partners), part of John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance Company. Starting as a director of finance and administration, she ultimately became chief operating officer. Throughout her career, she oversaw fund formation, initial investments, portfolio and fund accounting, investment monitoring, liquidations, and strategic planning. She retired at 55 after 22 years, stewarding the company from 35 people to a tenfold expansion with a presence on four continents.
“Knowing that this is one of the highest honors that Babson can give makes me feel thanked. It’s rewarding. I’m so grateful.”
Martha DiMatteo Vorlicek ’81 on receiving an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters
Despite a demanding career, Vorlicek made time for civic involvement, following the instincts that proved so rewarding in her professional life. She was recruited as a Beth Israel Medical Center trustee by a contact from her HarbourVest days, who sought more women on its finance committee. Initially unsure if she knew enough about health care to make a true difference, she was quickly hooked.
“Most board members are grateful patients or grateful relatives of patients,” she says. “Most of them have a strong personal connection to Beth Israel. I didn’t have that. But, I was intrigued to stay on because people are just so passionate about the place. And, the passion is contagious.”
Commitment to Babson
Vorlicek feels similarly about her ongoing devotion to Babson. She was a trustee from 2009 until 2021 and also served on the Babson Alumni Association Board. She has been an inaugural member of the Circle of Distinction since 2019. She also established and still supports the DiMatteo Family Endowed Alumni Scholarship. However, she never expected to become a trustee until then-President Leonard Schlesinger H’14 took her to lunch and explained how much he valued her financial perspective.
“When asked to join the trustees, I kept saying: ‘I have a busy job. I have young children. Time is my most precious commodity. I don’t know enough about higher education,’ ” she remembers. “But, (Schlesinger) told me he wanted people with other experiences. I wasn’t sure how valuable I’d be, but I gave it a try. And, what’s been rewarding at both Beth Israel and Babson is to know that what you’re giving is valuable—all while learning professionally.”
She is characteristically modest about receiving an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from her alma mater.
“When President Steve Spinelli (Jr. MBA’92, PhD) first called me, I was a little speechless. I didn’t know what to say,” she says, laughing. “But, knowing that this is one of the highest honors that Babson can give makes me feel thanked. It’s rewarding. I’m so grateful.”
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