Alumnus Helps First-generation Students Turn Ambition into Opportunity

As a first-generation student, David Gutierrez ’04 maximized his time at UCR to learn all he could, and with a successful career, he continues to invest his time mentoring current students as they prepare for their own professional journeys
By Darin Estep |

Recalling one of his first career fairs as an undergraduate, David Gutierrez ’04 describes being pulled aside by a college adviser with a bit of crucial advice: Clip the brand label off your jacket sleeve. 

It was an oversight that Gutierrez attributes to the lack of experience that is common to many first-generation college students. 

But he has noticed something else about those students: Whatever they lack in familiarity with academic or formal settings, they more than make up for with their desire to succeed. This is especially evident, he says, with students from UC Riverside, and its well-earned reputation for social mobility

“I see UCR business alumni at higher levels of business, and they can run circles around graduates from other schools,” says Gutierrez, who moved on from that awkward jacket label moment to a successful career working with Fortune 500 companies and as an entrepreneur. 

Today, he is vice president of finance and accounting and strategic initiatives at Radiology Partners, the largest physician-owned and physician-led radiology practice in the United States. 

New generations of students at the School of Business have other titles for him: Mentor. Adviser. Benefactor. 

His motivation is to repay the support he received from faculty, alumni, and his parents, who raised him with the expectation that he would earn a college degree, even if they did not. 

“My dad worked overtime to put me through school. That was the sacrifice he made,” Gutierrez says. “For him, it was a way to give back to me, and I decided to pay it forward.” 

He has served in a variety of leadership capacities at UC Riverside, including on the Dean’s Advisory Counsel and Alumni Association Board. In 2016, he was the recipient of the UCR Outstanding Young Alumnus Award

He recently conducted an online career chat for students, and he continues to find new ways to connect with his alma mater. None of this is surprising to his boss, Radiology Partners CFO Steve Tumbarello. 

“David is a big believer in UCR,” Tumbarello says, adding that students are well-served by his insights. 

“When you’re in college, you don’t know what you don’t know. David brings a wide variety of experiences, helping them to understand how they can position themselves for success.” 

One of the strengths Gutierrez demonstrates, Tumbarello says, is an ability to build relationships: “People who work for him understand he really cares about them. He is a staunch team builder, able to lead, able to guide. He wants to make sure the team succeeds.” 

Gutierrez joined Radiology Partners in 2014 when the practice had fewer than 100 physicians. After helping to scale the accounting and finance teams to support the largest radiology practice in the U.S.—with more than 2,800 physicians and 7,000 total employees serving more than 3,400 hospitals and health-care facilities—he now supports the growth of the practice through M&A support, financial diligence leadership, and integration of new physician partnerships. 

When discussing his successful career, Gutierrez is quick to credit the inspiration, guidance, and mentorship he has received. He maintains close relationships with UCR alumni, including such distinguished School of Business graduates as Tim Greenleaf ’78 and Darin Anderson ’89, ’91 MBA. 

For someone who appears to be a born business leader (his high school senior project was launching a toy-reselling business; as a first-year student at UCR, he and friends created an online textbook exchange), he arrived at college intending to become a dentist. 

Although he had been a good student in high school, a failed college math class convinced him he never would succeed at organic chemistry or other complex science courses. But even that setback taught him something: the importance of connecting with professors and preparing for class. He wants to help more students recognize this. 

“You really only have three years to get going and build a résumé. You can’t let your grades suffer,” he says. “It’s important to light a fire under students.” 

And he intends to help light that fire. 

Before his son was born, Gutierrez was very active in philanthropy and board leadership for nonprofits, including support for low-income families and connecting high school students with the real experiences of local business leaders. With his son turning 4, he is ready to re-engage in a new capacity at UCR, investing to help students make an impact. 

“The biggest accolade or success when I think about UCR is how transformative it can be for first-generation students,” he says. “I don’t ever want parents of first-generation students to worry about finances for education.”