Kenn Ricci: Like Father, Like Son

By Sally Anne Flecker | Fall 2014

Printer Friendly

Kenn Ricci (ACCT '78) remembers like it was yesterday, how his baby son Austin would wave his arms feverishly and practically leap out of his high chair when it was time to eat. “Like he was starving,” says Ricci. But as soon as he would eat, he’d throw everything up. Turns out, he was starving, although it would take months to determine that young Austin had cystic fibrosis, causing mucous to block his pancreatic ducts and keep him from digesting his food. A synthetic enzyme that he takes before every meal keeps that problem in check now. “Not being able to digest food is not a killer,” Ricci says. “He could live with that his whole life.” Ultimately, it’s the decline in lung function caused by chronic infection that is most worrisome.

But for now, Austin, 12, swims, skis, plays basketball and is as avid a Notre Dame football fan as his dad. And news on the cystic fibrosis front is encouraging. Life expectancy has tripled to age 37, and phase three of clinical trials has just been completed for a gene-therapy treatment for the double-gene defect that causes 70 percent of cases, including Austin’s.

Ricci has described Austin as someone who is very focused and determined—in fact, relentless—about something he wants to achieve. He might well have been describing himself. He’s an astute businessman, entrepreneur in the aviation industry and experienced pilot. In 2007, Ricci made a $2 million gift to establish an endowed chair supporting the work of leading cystic fibrosis researcher Michael Konstan at University Hospital’s Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital in Cleveland. Ricci’s also been actively involved with fundraising for the past decade for the Northern Ohio Chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, which honored him last April for his support for CF research and treatment. “That was a pretty big event,” Ricci says. “It raised about half a million dollars for the foundation.” He then defers credit for his role in the evening’s success, ascribing it instead to Austin, who’s speech that night brought attendees to their feet. “They raised two-and-a-half times the money they ever raised,” says the proud papa. “So, obviously, he did a very good job.”

Related Items


  • Salt and Light10
    Salt & Light 1411
    Salt & Light: Passionate About Human Dignity 1461
    Salt & Light: There's Always Room in the Inn 1462
    Karen Hildebrandt: Quiet Hero 2612
    John Weber: The Importance of Being Turtles 2613
    Mike Mannor: New Hope for Down Syndrome 2614
    Maggie Neenan-Michel: Born to Run 2615
    Kristin Collett-Schmitt: To Honor Mackenzie 2616
    Jamie O'Brien: Cultivating Children 2626
    Karen Slaggert: Suffer the Little Children 2627
    More Salt & Light 2628
    Patti Reinhardt: Survivor's Tale 2629
  • Taking Stock - Personal Essays1
    Everyday Grace: On Stories 1444
  • Class Notes3
    Class Notes 1435
    Future Domers 2641
    In Memoriam 2642
  • Ask More of Business1
    Ask More: Grounds & Hounds 2636
  • Web Exclusive1
    Salt & Light: Passionate About Human Dignity 1461
    Salt & Light: There's Always Room in the Inn 1462
    "Shark Tank" Judge Visits Mendoza 1464
  • In Memoriam1
    In Memoriam 2642
  • Future Domers1
    Future Domers 2641
  • Mendoza News5
    A Meeting of Minds to Help the Poor 1340
    New Faculty Profile: Meet Charlice Hurst 1341
    A Matter of Trust 1352
    College News Briefs 1449
    Faculty News Briefs 2630
  • Mendoza Profiles2
    On and Off the Fence 1355
    A Poignant Journey 1373
  • Alumni Community4
    Class Notes 1435
    The Hessert Brothers: And They're Off 2547
    Kenn Ricci: Like Father, Like Son 2545
    Charles Florance: Inspirational Spirits 2546
  • First Person1
    Back to School 1443