Many Lee University athletes have received their degrees and gone on to outstanding careers outside the rim of athletics. But the accomplishments and goals of former men’s basketball standout and Maryland native Jahmal Rich (2002-03 – 2004-05) are certainly more than enough to capture the spotlight.
Rich graduated from Lee with a degree in biological sciences, but basketball was still in the blood of the smooth and talented left-hander who was a graceful leaper and scorer for the Flames. He went on to play professional ball in Gelsenkirchen, Germany, and then was with the Yakima Sun-Kings of the CBA for a short stint, before hanging up his shoes for good in 2007.
After basketball, Rich accepted a job with a Swedish company called Lonza (Walkersville, Maryland) where he was manufacturing novel therapies using human cells (cellular therapeutics).
“These therapies have the potential to cure cancers and other genetic disease,” he noted.
Rich stayed with Lonza for four years before entering a position at the University of Maryland where he led a contract manufacturing and process development laboratory which assisted biotech’s with developing manufacturing processes cell and gene therapies, assisting the university in its quest to get the therapy from bench top to commercialization. While at the university he also returned to the classroom and received his master’s in biotechnology.
After five years at the university, he went back to Lonza as a manufacturing sciences and technology engineer. “I was responsible for owning the entire life cycle of cell and gene therapy programs coming through Lonza,” Rich pointed out. “This job was multi-faceted and allowed me to guide projects from the clinic to commercial manufacturing. After being an MSAT engineer for two years, I received a promotion as a Proposal and was relocated to Houston, Texas. As a proposal manager I was responsible for writing and negotiating proposals and contracts for the development and manufacturing of cell and gene therapies. I was a proposal manager for 1.5 years at Lonza,” he added.
Jahmal returned to Gaithersburg, Maryland and joined with Emergent BioSolutions, an organization that is at the forefront of the COVID-19 fight. “Emergent is manufacturing vaccines and therapies for several diseases,” he explained. “I am a senior technology evaluation and proposal specialist, and responsible for writing proposals and contracts for incoming projects. Also, I am responsible for the implementation of the new proposal process.”
The former Flame is still burning hot as he pushes forward. “My goals for the future are to become director of my own company in two years,” he stated. “I want to build my business around diversity and inclusion within the biotech space.”
Rich added, “I really miss lee and everyone down there.”
Dr. Jeff Salyer, Lee Director of Media Service, said this about Rich, “When I was producing the “Inside Lee Basketball” TV show, Jahmal and I formed a really good friendship outside of the arena. Perhaps our friendship grew out of our shared left handedness.
“Jahmal was always extremely driven. Whether it was on the court or in the classroom. His intelligence was extremely present in both places. At Lee he knew he wanted to go to grad school and pursue science after a stint playing professional basketball overseas.
“He might be the funniest basketball player I got to hang around during all my years producing the show. Jahmal was always cutting up except when it was time to practice or play games. I still remember a baseline left-handed dunk he did at home, which no one expected, but brought the crowd to its feet.
“He has been doing really great work in cell and gene therapy. Number 15 might not be in the rafters of Walker Arena, but anyone who was around during his years thinks highly of the “leftie slasher” from Maryland.”
Retired Lee Professor Dr. Milton Riley said, “I remember Jahmal and I am really proud of his accomplishments. He was conscious and hard-working, trying to balance the demands of academics and sports. He came to see me to get help when needed. He is the type of person that reflects well on Lee University. His work ethic will stand him good in the future.”