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Richard Alan Sun

March 28, 1950 March 1, 2022
Richard Alan Sun
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Obituary for Richard Alan Sun
Richard Alan Sun died at his home in Jackson, Mississippi on March 1, 2022 at the age of 71. This self-described “Air Force Brat” landed in Maryland in high school and became Maryland state cross-country champion repeatedly, and second in the national High School Two Mile event at the Penn Relays. Harvard University wanted him but he turned them down and decided on Princeton. He always said that university changed his life—but they were lucky to get him. His senior thesis was published with his advisor Edward Tufte, and proved that no, there are no “bellwether electoral districts”. It further concluded that it may be best to look not to the election returns for a source of mystery and prediction of results but rather to ourselves—quoting the writer Somerset Maugham’s words that “the faculty for myth is innate in the human race”. Richard became known for his witty and well-defended stance as a “contrarian”.

Richard then earned a Masters of Business Administration from the Stern School of Business at New York University, and went on to a storied and long career in investment banking: stints for Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, Credit Suisse First Boston, Union Bank of Switzerland (UBS), Emerging Markets Partnership and a variety of private equity roles. He originated and led over 100 private financings and advisories, worth over $11 billion; many of these were “first of their kind”, “largest” or “fastest” and required exceptional levels of creativity, intelligence and tenacity. This work wasn’t “just” moving money: people’s lives were changed by roads being built, being able to bring their products to market and being given the dignity of earning a living by being part of the global economy. Richard also earned the certification of “Chartered Financial Analyst”: no mean feat, as those who have failed any or all of the three stages of testing will testify.

Along the way, despite a childhood eye issue that affected his peripheral vision Richard raced Formula Ford cars and became certified as both a dual engine pilot and for IFR (instrument-rated) flying. In his private plane he flew wounded US military veterans on Angel Flights to needed medical care. And he was part of the US Coast Guard Air Auxiliary for Chesapeake Bay; he regaled us with the stories of being used as “practice” by US Air Force F-15s for intercepting planes near the Washington, D.C. airspace. In practice, a sign appeared in the F-15 pilot window saying “You have been intercepted”. As Richard reminded us, the absolute next step was to “remain predictable” and “follow instructions”—a challenge for a spirited soul such as he. But as he put it with a grin, “Those F-15 pilots were not smiling.”


All throughout his career Richard championed and supported early-stage startups, investing his own money, time and talent through his firm, Sun & Co. He loved the Teddy Roosevelt speech about “The Man In The Arena”: he who is “actually in the arena” and “does actually strive to do the deeds” and “who spends himself in a worthy cause” . But this ideal reached its apogee after Richard and his wife settled in Jackson, Mississippi in 2008, and he began to work as board president and the first Entrepreneur in Residence for Innovate Mississippi, and became the co-founder of Mississippi Coding Academies (MCA). The latter vision made an ambitious idea into an engine of change and graduated over 100 coders out of hourly-wage jobs into professional middle-class careers and opportunities. In 2019 he was named “Mississippian of the Year” by the Association of Technology Professionals He gained national recognition for “The Enhanced Mississippi Model for EdTech” and as a result, MIT Solve and the X-PRIZE Rapid Reskilling Challenge celebrated that work with “Top 10” accolades in 2021. At the time of his death Richard was continuing to be a dedicated leader growing a high-tech economy in the state of Mississippi; helping make this state a leader for the future. He added to that legacy by being a co-founder of the high-impact startup EasyKale, LLC. As he joked when he shook its kale powder on his food, “I hate the taste and texture of kale but I love getting its benefits in my body this way!”

Richard is survived by his wife, Dr. Phyllis A.M. Hollenbeck MD; his sons Gavin Sun and Darren Sun, and their spouses; and two grandchildren. Donations may be made in his memory to scholarship funding at Princeton University. An Episcopal memorial service will be held on April 9th in Ridgeland, Mississippi.

The Ancient Greek playwright Sophocles wrote in his play Oedipus at Colonus:

“One word frees us of all the weight and pain of life: That word is love.”

All of us who loved Richard Alan Sun carry him in our hearts forever.
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Previous Events

Funeral Service

Saturday

9

Apr

11:00 AM 4/9/2022 11:00:00 AM
St. James' Episcopal Church

3921 Oakridge Dr,
Jackson, MS 39216

St. James' Episcopal Church
3921 Oakridge Dr, Jackson 39216 MS
United States
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