Completing the Circle
Every January for the past three years, John Micetich and his wife have closed up their home in sunny San Diego and moved halfway across the country to spend the winter in Champaign-Urbana. It isn't the weather that attracts them to the Midwest. Micetich, a 1969 graduate in psychology who now owns a successful investment firm, returns to the U of I campus each January to teach a nine-week course in financial planning—pro bono—as a way of giving back to the University that gave him his start.
" I wanted to do something more than just give money," Micetich explains, "and this is something I am good at and which will be important to students sooner than they think."
Micetich holds an MBA from San Diego State University, but he credits his liberal arts and sciences education for the global perspectives and shrewd insight into human relations needed for success. His career in banking and financial planning has taken him around the world and through numerous swings in the economy. Since 1985, he has run his own investment-advising firm, Kensington Financial, for which he manages some $60 million in assets.
So that students could enjoy similar success, he approached LAS in 2001 about teaching students about investing. He had taught a similar class at the University of California, San Diego for many years. LAS talked to U of I finance professor David Sinow, who looked at Micetich's resume and recommended the college jump at the offer. The first year, Micetich taught one class geared toward business majors. The next winter, he added a second, this one designed just for LAS students. This year he will move to larger rooms so that more students can enroll in the popular classes.
Always willing to do more, Micetich guest lectures in several finance classes and presents an investment workshop for the faculty and staff as well as a seminar for seniors in LAS that covers the kinds of financial decisions they will face when they land their first job. The demand for the senior seminar was so strong this past year that LAS added a second session to accommodate the overflow. The classes and seminars are on top of Micetich's work responsibilities, which he conducts over the Internet while in Illinois.
It is easy to spot Micetich by the circle of students that is usually surrounding him, hanging on his every word. Jennifer Kavadas, a 2003 graduate in finance and economics, described Micetich's class as "the most valuable class [she] took in four years as a student," both for the practical investment skills she learned and the conviction with which Micetich spoke of liberal arts education as being the key to becoming a good citizen capable of making a positive contribution to society.
How one contributes to society may take many forms, believes Micetich, who has also tutored homeless people and disadvantaged middle-school children in California. Sharing time and talent with one's alma mater is, as Micetich sees it, completing the circle. He encourages his students to do the same once they are able. "The opportunity to give back," says Micetich, "is a responsibility and the greatest gift of an education."
By Holly Korab