By Liz Warren-Pederson and Jennifer Fitzenberger
Don Seeley, retiring director of the Applied Portfolio Management Program at the Eller College of Management, says there are three things he’ll miss most about the University of Arizona — its past, present, and future students.
He hopes a new endowment named after him will support these students by strengthening teaching, research, and mentoring.
Eller College dean Paul Portney contributed a leading gift of $5,000 to theDon Seeley Fund for Excellence in Finance at a recent breakfast honoring Seeley’s accomplishments. At the event, the Department of Finance and the UA Foundation jointly announced the formation of the endowment.
Several of Seeley’s current and former students attended the breakfast to pay tribute to their mentor.
“I met Don 10 years ago, as he was retiring from a successful career in the business world,” said Christopher Lamoureux, head of the Department of Finance and the Diamond Professor of Finance. “At that first meeting, it was clear that Don was extraordinary — both in his capabilities and his dedication to and willingness to help young people.”
Together, Seeley and Lamoureux conceived and designed a course in which students would manage an actual investment portfolio. For the last 10 years, the resulting Applied Portfolio Management class has managed a portion of the UA Foundation endowment, an investment portfolio that provides annual income for areas such as scholarships, research, and faculty support.
Seeley said managing the fund “gives students an opportunity to utilize what they have learned in other finance and business courses, together with their life experiences.”
“The students are fiduciaries,” he explained. “They make decisions, and they are accountable for the results that are readily observed.”
Over its 10-year life, the student-managed portfolio has beaten its benchmark by 343 basis points per year. The portfolio’s average annual return since inception is 5.93 percent, compared with the 2.5 percent return on the benchmark: 70 percent Standard & Poor’s 500, 30 percent Barclays Aggregate Bond Index.
“What I could not have imagined when conceiving this class was how rich a learning environment it would become,” Lamoureux said. “Master’s students actually manage teams of undergraduate students — the former gaining critical managerial skills under Don’s guidance, while the latter learn how to work in a professional atmosphere.”
The rich classroom learning environment Seeley created won him a student-voted faculty mentor award in 2007. In addition to his teaching contributions, Seeley served on the UA’s investment committee and helped organize theDepartment of Finance Advisory Board, of which he served as chairman for many years.
“Despite the great teaching Don has given us for 10 years, and despite the great returns his students have generated for the foundation, Don has never let us pay him a cent,” Portney said. “If that’s not the epitome of volunteer leadership, I don’t know what is.”
Seeley came to the UA in 2000 after retiring from True North Communications, Inc., a Chicago-based marketing company for which he served as vice chairman and chief financial officer.
Over the course of his career, he served in leadership roles with Alexander & Alexander Services Inc. and its consulting division The Alexander Group, United Airlines, G.D. Searle & Co., and Firestone Tire & Rubber Co. He holds an undergraduate degree and an MBA from the University of Colorado.
“I will miss him, and I want to express gratitude on behalf of hundreds of students and a department that is so much richer for the generous gift of his time,” Lamoureux said.
Seeley’s last day at the UA was May 7.