Chris Shean (ACCT ’87) remembers when he became passionate about supporting the Pamplin College of Business.

“I always felt a need to give, but it was never in a very meaningful way,” said Shean, of Castle Rock, Colorado, who serves as senior advisor at Liberty Media and is on the board of directors for Expedia, Liberty Expedia Holdings, and FTD.

A visit from one of the college’s fundraisers a number of years ago changed all that. During their conversation, Shean learned that the dean was retiring, and Pamplin wanted to endow the Richard E. Sorensen Dean’s Chair to recruit a top-flight dean to drive its future.

Shean makes a point during the Pamplin Advisory Council meeting. (Photo credit: Christina Franusich)
Shean makes a point during the Pamplin Advisory Council meeting. (Photo credit: Christina Franusich)

“That was the motivation I needed to jump in with a larger commitment. There is nothing like having a true cause to drive action,” said Shean.

“Now, with Dean Sumichrast at the helm, Pamplin faces the greatest challenge in its history. The proposed Global Business and Analytics Complex is a complete revamping of not only facilities, but the very nature of a business-school education,” Shean said.

“Modernization of our facilities from a mid-1950’s building to a 21st century learning environment is also critical to our success as a top business college,” he said.

“Technologically equipped, state-of-the-art, collaborative work spaces and learning labs are how employers as well as other top business schools have designed their new facilities. We have to build this. The complex keeps us competitive.”

Contributing $1.1 million

Shean and his wife, Lesley (ELED ’88), have contributed $1.1 million to support the effort, which leverages strengths of the Pamplin College of Business and other colleges and academic units. Faculty from multiple colleges will engage in collaborative projects for teaching and conducting research focused on the Data Analytics and Decision Sciences Destination Area — a node of expertise across the university.

While CFO at Liberty Media and Liberty Interactive, a position he held from 2011 to 2016, Shean oversaw accounting and treasury functions for a wide range of media and entertainment holdings, including Sirius XM Radio, QVC, and the Atlanta Braves Baseball Club.

“Having spent my entire career in the technology, communications, and entertainment industries, I am excited by this new approach. Creating this kind of an educational foundation for our graduates will be truly valued in the marketplace,” said Shean.

“I strongly believe this is something that all alumni and constituent partners should be eager to rally behind and encourage them to join me with their support,” he said.

Philanthropy is not the only way Shean gives back. He regularly returns to campus as a guest lecturer to share his knowledge and experience with Pamplin students.

He also offers them some advice: Understand that success is not instant; do not overestimate what you bring to the table early in your career. Work hard, pay your dues, and earn the respect of others.

“While you may think that more experienced professionals are not as technologically savvy or as in tune with societal changes as you are, remember that you can learn from them,” Shean said. “They know how to deal with others in the workplace and understand what it takes to get things done efficiently.”

Starting a conversation

Shean also emphasizes the important of engaging in conversation. “In today’s society of emails and texting, it is too easy to forget the importance of actually talking to one another, face-to-face,” said Shean, “but this remains an important skill if you want to be successful.”

Shean serves on the cabinet committee of the Pamplin Advisory Council and has served on the Department of Accounting and Information Systems advisory board. He has been instrumental in strengthening relationships with alumni by hosting events and connecting Pamplin officials with prominent alumni.

A native of Victoria, Virginia, Shean was attracted to Virginia Tech at an early age, attending Hokie football games while his uncle was an engineering student in the mid-1970s. Like many other freshmen, he had no clear picture of exactly what he wanted to study once he arrived in Blacksburg in the fall of 1983.

“My plan was to start taking some business classes and figure it out from there,” Shean said. “After a friend suggested that accounting was a solid field with good job opportunities, I signed up for a Principles of Accounting class. The logic behind accounting all made sense and clicked for me, and I started imagining a clearer career path.”

Shean’s career began right after graduation at KPMG in Norfolk. In 1995, he moved to the company’s Denver office to work on the audit of a major telecommunications client and made partner three years later. He joined Liberty Media in 2000.

“I credit the education I received at Pamplin with helping me land such a great job right out of college,” said Shean. “I graduated with both the skills and confidence I needed to be effective at the very start of my career. That great foundation — coupled with years of hard work and opportunity — have made me the professional I am today.”

-By Barbara Micale