University of Southern California

Synergy: AFA, Stancill and Me
March 7, 2014 • by Robert L. Rodriguez

2014 marks the 50th anniversary of the USC American Finance Association (AFA) Student Executive Dinner, an event and an organization that mean a great deal to me. Serving as USC's AFA president for the 1970-71 term was a wonderful learning opportunity. The organization introduced me not only to numerous business executives, but, most importantly, it also connected me with Professor James Stancill—the man who launched and ran the program for more than four decades. He became my professor, mentor and friend.

Early in life, I learned the value of connecting with people. When I was around 10, I had to write a letter requesting something from a complete stranger as part of a class assignment. I had no clue who to contact, so I asked the school librarian. When she learned I collected coins, she handed me a book about the Federal Reserve.

So I wrote to William McChesney Martin, then Fed chair, who wrote back informing me I was the youngest-ever subscriber to the Federal Reserve Bulletin. I had made a connection and was now on my way—even though I didn't know my exact route yet. That would come later, at USC Marshall.

At first, I didn't think I could afford to attend USC, but my father told me, if my application was accepted, we would find a way. I worked almost full time and took out student loans. And a whole new world opened up for me.

For instance, in Gil Babcock's graduate investment class, I got to meet Charlie Munger, Warren Buffet's right hand man. I asked him for one piece of career advice. He said: "Read history, read history, read history." It was valuable counsel and, if I hadn't been in that class or at USC Marshall, I would never have had that experience. Being a good financial historian has served me well in my career—and remembering my path to success keeps bringing me back to this school.

I've stayed involved with USC Marshall over the years, with the Student Investment Club and the Center for Investment Studies—lecturing students and having them visit my firm—and contributing to various programs. I endowed the chair for Jim Stancill and have helped finance the annual dinner for many years as a means of saying thank you. You don't get to where you are all by yourself, and you should never forget those who help you along the way. I know I never will.

The topic of my speech at this year's AFA dinner will be "Synergy: AFA, Stancill and Me." Synergy is the process by which the sum of the parts is greater than the whole, which is how I can best describe the AFA, the influence Jim Stancill had on me, and the whole USC experience. The Trojan Family understands that mutual support strengthens us all, and lasting friendships are more valuable than any currency.

Plus, given our field, I thought I should get a business term in there somehow.

A few colleagues felt so strongly about the value of the AFA Student Executive Dinner that they pooled resources to start an endowment in honor of its 50th anniversary. The school could really use your help to grow the fund to a level where generations of students will be able to experience its benefits, in perpetuity. Please join this important effort.

For more information: USC Chapter of the American Finance Association Student Executive Dinner

Fight On!
Robert L. Rodriguez BS '74, MBA '75
Managing Partner and Chief Executive Officer
First Pacific Advisors