Business students achieve money management milestone thanks to donor support

When Edwards School of Business alumnus David Frattinger (BComm’13) signed up for new finance class being offered four years ago, he didn’t realize that he wouldn’t have a textbook for the class – or a syllabus.

“In the first year we were putting together the framework for the class,” says David, “and the market was our textbook.”

That framework laid the foundation for a very popular – and successful – class that allows senior-level business students to invest real money in the stock market.

The real money came from donors to the School, and is named The George S. Dembroski Student-Managed Portfolio Trust in honour of George Dembroski, who committed $300,000 of a $1 million donation to Edwards to kick start the fund in 2011.

Dembroski, an Ontario-based chartered accountant and former vice-chairman and director of RBC Dominion Securities Ltd., made the donation to mark the over 15 years he spent on the Cameco Board of Directors. “I wanted to recognize the vitality of the Saskatchewan business community by investing in local education,” says Dembroski.

When N. Murray Edwards (BComm’82, LLD’11), the School’s namesake, heard about the fund, he was inspired to donate $200,000, and longtime supporters of the university Scott and Grit McCreath (BComm’69 and BEd’91) also committed $25,000, bringing the portfolio total up to $525,000 to invest starting in 2012. Since then, more donors have stepped forward to bring the fund up to $1 million.

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(Front row L – R): Professor Tannous, Donor George Dembroski and Dean Daphne Taras celebrate with current students, donors and alumni at the October 28, 2015 announcement of the student managed portfolio trust milestone.

On October 28, 2015, the students in this year’s class, led by their professor Dr. George Tannous, announced that their investments have literally paid off. Their $1 million has grown to $1.4 million in just 3 years of investing.

These students are now working with one of the largest portfolios in Western Canada. They earn significant financial returns, often exceeding those of relevant benchmark indices, with the fund producing an average annual return of 8.13 per cent since its inception.

But more importantly than money, alumni Frattinger and Solo Zhang (BComm’12, MSc’15) speak to the importance of a class that helps bridge theory to practical application while giving them a leg up in the job market.

Says Zhang, “As a student, I took many classes covering various subjects in finance, but rarely had opportunities to apply them in a real-life setting, especially on the Canadian prairie where ‘stock’ can mean quite a different thing. This program offered us precious and unique opportunities to make real money decisions which potential employers value.”

Frattinger wholeheartedly agrees. He now works as an Investment Banking Analyst at BMO Capital Markets after starting with the company’s summer internship program four years ago. “All of the interns that I worked with in the program were involved in a student managed portfolio of some kind,” says David.

pull_quote“There is ample evidence that students learn best when they roll up their sleeves and get deeply involved,” says Dean of the Edwards School of Business Daphne Taras. “Experiential learning is a trend at the Edwards School and the university as a whole.”

Tannous says the transformation of the students during the school year is remarkable. “Many students came to the class with the idea that they could outsmart the market and get rich quick but they graduated with the realization that they need hard work, discipline, and well-designed strategy to survive in a risky market,” he says. “The practical experience that they went through is the only way to make these transformations.”

The trust is overseen by a board of trustees, including investment professionals, alumni, finance faculty and students. A portion of the income students earn is reinvested into the portfolio and the remainder provides benefits to Edwards students. Five to ten students receive scholarships from the fund each year and the curriculum now includes an annual trip to New York City for a competition on Wall Street against more than a thousand students from around the world.

“Through guidance, coaching, inter-group discussions, critical feedback from peers and self-motivated learning, they transform into wise managers, ready and confident to invest in the turbulent financial market,” adds Tannous.

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Dean Taras, George Dembroski, Professor Tannous, President of the Edwards Business Students’ Society Callan Kimber, and Finance Department Head Dev Mishra.

Dembroski, who attended the milestone celebration last week says, “The objective for my donation was to create an environment at the Edwards School of Business where student interest in stock trading and portfolio management would be greatly enhanced. Since the fund’s inception, the school has applied all the tools necessary to make the student managed portfolio trust a real experience. It has been a great success.”

“Because of this portfolio’s size and our students’ performance, we have entered the top echelon of business schools in providing investment experience to students,” says Daphne Taras, dean of the Edwards School of Business. “This initiative has been a game-changer for the school.”

“This is one of the most beneficial classes I’ve taken in university.  You’re learning something tangible, you’re getting real-world experience. And when I leave the class, I can look at investments and be confident in what I’m doing,” says Parker Lazeski, who graduated earlier this year.

Adds classmate Fuji Stokes, “Overall, I just found the class to be a giant cornucopia of awesomeness.”


Hear current students talk about The George S. Dembroski Student-Managed Portfolio Trust:smpt_video_butttonChristy Miller is the Director of Alumni & Development Communications in Advancement & Community Engagement.

Calgary engineering alumni count on community for their success

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Clockwise from top: Golfers Sam Wing (BE’75), Wayne Pridham (BE’75), Andy Kramchynski (BE’79), and Gord Bryant (BE’66) at the 2008 Calgary Engineers Golf Tournament; the 2010 tournament-winning team Gerry Hillis (BE'62) , Anne-Marie Cey, Katelyn Frecon (BE'12) and Don Olafson (BE'58); 2010 Tournament Chair Chris Regier (BE'99) receives a Calgary Stampeders hat and a new set of clubs; and 2010 SESS President Ian Farthing wins the putting contest using only one hand!

Clockwise from top: Golfers Sam Wing (BE’75), Wayne Pridham (BE’75), Andy Kramchynski (BE’79), and Gord Bryant (BE’66) at the 2008 Calgary Engineers Golf Tournament; the 2010 tournament-winning team Gerry Hillis (BE’62) , Anne-Marie Cey, Katelyn Frecon (BE’12) and Don Olafson (BE’58); 2010 Tournament Chair Chris Regier (BE’99) receives a Calgary Stampeders hat and a new set of clubs; and 2010 SESS President Ian Farthing wins the putting contest using only one hand!

By Ashleigh Mattern, BA’11

Last year, the Engineering Advancement Trust purchased a bevy of hands-on equipment for students in the College of Engineering, including an advanced flow measurement system used to measure flows in pipes and rivers, a new impact testing facility that replaced a 50-year-old model with safety concerns, optics and photonics equipment, and a combined heat and power laboratory.

The Trust receives significant annual support from the Friends of the College of Engineering at the University of Saskatchewan (FOCUS) – Calgary Chapter, a group of close to 1,500 Engineering alumni who understand that the college is a capitally intensive school that needs ongoing support from its graduates. Plus, giving something tangible is a great way to underscore the connection between alumni and students.

Blair Hockley (BE'96)

Blair Hockley (BE’96)

“When we were there, we benefited from the gifting from previous alumni,” said Blair Hockley (BE’96), campaign chair of the Calgary group. “We want students to realize that they are connected to alumni.”

Since the early 1950s, a significant number of U of S Engineering graduates have built their careers in Calgary, and since those early days, they never missed a chance to gather as proud U of S alumni, whether it was to have dinner with former professors, watch the Huskies play the U of C Dinos or meet the current U of S President. In the 1980s, the group formally organized itself into social and fundraising committees and since then they have raised over $3 million for the college, with the majority of the funds going towards the Engineering Advancement Trust.

Al Schreiner (BE'63)

Al Schreiner (BE’63)

Hockley has been involved with the group since he attended university. Alumni like Al Schreiner (BE’63), Art Dumont (BE’67), Doug Annable (BE’67), and Barry Korchinski (BE’67) were leading the fundraising at that time, and actively involved students in both fundraising and “friend raising” events.

Al Schreiner stepped in as Hockley’s mentor, and their relationship ended up transcending university; they have worked together around the world, and consider each other friends, says Hockley.

“My relationship with the group has been what we’re hoping to foster in other givers – a feeling of connection between alumni and students.”

Today, Hockley is the vice-president of Thermal Oil, a position he directly attributes to his education at the U of S. He says many alumni share this sentiment, and it plays a role in their willingness to give.

“We wouldn’t be doing what we are doing today without the excellent quality of education we received at the U of S. It’s incumbent on us to give back because we wouldn’t have what we have without our education.”

The group raises about $100,000 per year and hosts several social events. Their annual golf tournament started in 1990, and is a popular event to this day, but it has never been a fundraising event. All of their “friend raising” initiatives are kept separate from fundraising because they want members to see that building community is just as important as raising funds.

The group is currently witnessing a “changing of the guard” as the graduates from the ’60s allow the graduates from the ’90s to fill the leadership roles, though all generations continue to connect with current students. But no matter what changes come, the same conditions that have always made the group successful are still in place: very strong leadership in a very tight-knit industry.

Ashleigh Mattern (BA’11) is a freelance journalist in Saskatoon. She is a former editor-in-chief of The Sheaf, and her work is regularly published in a variety of Saskatoon publications including the U of S alumni magazine, the Green & White.


The 2015 Calgary Engineering Alumni Chapter Golf Tournament will be held on June 18. To register, complete and return this registration form or visit http://engineering.usask.ca/alumni-and-friends/.

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