Photo: Student Investment Club members (four)

Larry Budnick, Jr. ’64 teaches students how to build portfolios—with an eye to launching future donors

NORWICH RECORD | Summer 2021

When Larry Budnick, Jr. ’64 decided to give back to Norwich, he didn’t want to just write a check. Instead, he felt it would be better to teach students financial skills that would help encourage them to become donors to Norwich as well.

“I didn’t want to just give money,” Budnick says. “I wanted to do some¬thing where students could learn about investing and how to build portfolios and manage them, and then eventually how to give back to the school.”

With assistance from Liz Kennedy ’01, vice president of development and alumni relations, Budnick donated funds to establish a student investment club at Norwich. Under his guidance, club members learn how to assess companies and choose profitable stocks to invest in. In less than a decade, the club’s portfolio has grown to around $300,000. It’s generated enough profit to allow the club to make its first contribution to the university’s scholarship fund shortly before the onset of the pandemic.

“It’s the gift that keeps on giving,” Kennedy says. “If students start investing now, just think how much further they can be ahead of their peers. And nothing makes you make the right decisions more than when you’re dealing with real money.”

Budnick teaches members several key principles about investing, like staying patient and keeping things simple. He helps guide discussion but lets members make their own choices. “If I see something not so great, I tell them, ‘I don’t think that’s very wise to do that, but it’s up to you to make that decision,’” he says. “And they learn from their mistakes.”

Another key philosophy Budnick espouses? Don’t panic. Current club member Peter Nguyen ’23 sees value in that approach even beyond the investing world. “What I’ve grown into is that not everything in the world needs a reaction,” he says. “And that type of view on the world has kept me calm whether I’m delving into the market or just in life in general.”

Budnick’s insight on everything from inflation to derivatives makes an impact with club members, who see him as a mentor. “Larry is a jack of all trades and like a real grandfather figure,” says CJ Jones ’21, who served as co-president of the club during his senior year. “He has a plethora of knowledge, and it’s really amazing to work with him.”

Members often stay in touch with Budnick after they leave Norwich. Braeden Ostepchuk ’18 was involved in the club only as a senior, but he forged a strong relationship with Budnick. He even worked as an automation engineer at Budnick’s Connecticut company, Vanguard Plastics Corp., during the off-season while playing minor-league professional hockey.

Ostepchuk says the investment and business insight he’s gained from Budnick over the years has changed the way he looks at companies. He describes it like “peeling back the onion,” where you’re asking the right questions to truly determine a company’s value. “It’s about understanding everything at a deeper level,” he says. “And I think if you transfer this into life you can use that for relationships, too.”

Though club members may still be in the early days of their own personal investing journeys, they feel confident they have learned skills from Budnick to help them succeed.

“I have the intention of never having a broker,” says Matt Candy ’21, who served as co-president with Jones this year. “I’m going to run my own investment portfolio for pretty much my entire life, because I know how to effectively invest and how to evaluate companies.”

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