Part of what makes the Moravian College experience so special is the wealth of opportunities afforded to students, including an opportunity to build wealth in real dollars through the Amrhein Investment Club. That experience? Priceless.
And a little revolutionary.
It all began in 1962, with a $20,000 gift from Irving S. Amrhein, a stockbroker and Moravian College trustee, and his wife, Alma Clauser Amrhein. The Amrheins’ hope was that students would use the money (equivalent to just over $164,000 today) to gain skills investing in the stock market. “Irving wanted to give students a hands-on learning experience,” says Linda Ravelle, associate professor of economics and business, who served as faculty advisor to the club for 25 years. “Mr. Amrhein thought he would have to provide additional infusions of money to keep the club going,” Ravelle says. “I am happy to report that he didn’t have to do that!” In fact, in the 5 1⁄2 decades Moravian College students have been investing the fund, they’ve taken it to 100 times its original amount. It is one of the largest student-managed funds in the country.
The club is organized into four funds—balanced, growth, income, and small cap—with a student member elected to manage each. Under the oversight of the club president, the fund manager works with those students interested in that particular fund. Each Tuesday at 11:45 am, the 30 to 40 members meet with Alex Tursi ’20, the club’s current president, and Daniel O’Connor, assistant professor of accounting and the club’s faculty advisor, to discuss current holdings and to present ideas for future purchases or sales of stocks and bonds. Club members are awarded 0.25 credits per year, or a full credit over four years, toward graduation.
Members research investment options and revise and expand the funds on a quarterly basis. For the club to move forward with investment in a stock, students must make a group presentation to get everyone on board.
Initially the fund was held as a trust administered by the economics and business department with the faculty of the department as trustees, explains Ravelle. In 1982, the trust was broken and the fund became part of the college endowment. The interest and dividends provide scholarships to students in the club and pay for the club’s research materials, trips, and an annual dinner.
“Amrhein has been successful because of the many passionate people who take the club so seriously,” says member Robert Falatyn ’22, a philosophy major. “Because it is so lucrative, ambitious people join and put in a great deal of effort to see it grow even bigger.”
Balanced fund members (left to right): Robert Falatyn, Tolu Adebayo, Kennedy Jamicky, and Akaylah Mease
Growth fund (standing, left to right): Alex Tursi, Chris Miceli, Jimmy Murray; seated: Michael Arroyo, Jarred Kyra
Income fund members (left to right): Orion Sun, Kaitlyn Hlavinka, Julian Hartshorn, Shelby Nickerson, Vincent Pianoforte
Today, the Amrhein Investment Fund stands at more than $2 million, but the greater return has been the growth of the students. They’ve learned, of course, how to invest in the stock market. They’ve acquired skills and absorbed life lessons that benefit them broadly beyond the finance world. The experience has helped to shape their career paths and has contributed to their general knowledge and understanding of the world.
“I came to the investment club with no previous experience of investments or the stock market,” says Akaylah Mease ’20, the club’s treasurer. “The Amrhein Club has taught me everything I know about investing, including researching stocks and figuring out whether or not they are worth investment,” she says. Since joining almost four years ago, she’s realized her true calling and changed her major from physics to economics with a finance track.
The club’s practical, hands-on work takes any prior classroom learning or research and solidifies it in students’ understanding.
“By actually buying and selling stocks, you can see where you’ve made mistakes and what to do better the next time,” Tursi says.
The students learn to look beyond just numbers. “I’ve discovered that investment statistics tell a useful but incomplete story of the stock,” Falatyn says. “In Amrhein, we focus our research on aspects that are more commonsense, like products, financial statements, and competitors. In this way, we get a ‘big picture’ of the stock rather than getting too bogged down in the statistics.”
And the lessons go beyond what’s happening on Wall Street. “The most important thing I’ve learned in the club is that it is okay to be wrong,” Tursi says. “When handling real money, it can be very high pressure; however, if you do your research and make a good honest effort, the rest is out of your hands—there’s no way to really know what the stock market is going to do.”
Tolu Adebayo ’20, a health sciences major and the club’s secretary, says she’s learned patience. “In order to invest, you must first patiently learn and study the basics of investing,” she says. “The club has made me a better person in ways I didn’t imagine. In addition to becoming a more patient person, I’m also now better organized and better at event planning.”
To augment the group work on Tuesdays in the Priscilla Payne Hurd Academic Center, the Amrhein Club heads off campus to participate in national competitions and to visit the New York Stock Exchange and other financial venues.
Club members also have numerous opportunities to connect with Moravian alumni working in finance. “Through my connection with the club, I’ve met many people who’ve taught me a lot about stocks and business in general,” says Tursi, an accounting major who plans to pursue certification as a Certified Public Accountant after graduation.
As the club moves into the next decade, members reflect on how it has changed and where they want it to go. The club has grown from around 15 students to up to 40 and from three funds to four. With the increased membership, the current members hope to increase community outreach and offer investment advice beyond Moravian’s campus. “From alumni to new members, everyone is excited about the opportunities we have to work with real money and continue to help the fund grow,” says Tursi.
Irving and Alma Amrhein would be very pleased indeed. Like the fund itself, their investment has exceeded expectations.
Moravian Street Advisors
I became the vice president of the Amrhein Investment Club in 1978. During that time, many stock market investors were bloodied by what was called the October Massacre. After having a good run for the first three quarters of the year—investing in stocks that yielded over 27 percent gains while the overall market was up less than 5 percent—we called the coming downturn in early October. We sold our stocks and invested in short-term treasuries, then yielding about 8 percent. The Allentown Morning Call featured us in a front-page article titled “Students Were Prepared.”
The experience I gained as VP of the Amhrein Club was the focal point of virtually every job interview as I started my career in banking. The lessons I learned from reading the Wall Street Journal, leading weekly discussions with our president, Jon Allen; one-on-one meetings with our advisor, John Grencer, and Moravian alum Lou Pektor ’72, who handled our trades; and a group trip to Wall Street were invaluable, and I frequently reflected upon them throughout my career.
I recently transitioned from a position as a banking executive to investing in startup companies with fellow members of Broad Street Angels and advising banks CEOs in the Philadelphia area.
Senior Product Specialist
S&P Global Market Intelligence
I was a business major, and my friends who were involved in the Amrhein Investment Club told me to check it out, so I did. I was primarily involved in the growth fund and served as secretary for a couple of years.
Being entrusted with real money and then growing that money gave me confidence in my abilities and my potential to get a job in the finance industry in New York City, which is where I launched my career in the financial-software industry.
When I interviewed for jobs, potential employers couldn’t believe the experience I had received in the club—we were working with real money, not play money.
I am currently a financial-software product specialist. I educate sales executives on our company’s offerings and work with them to provide clients and prospects presentations on our products and how those products can benefit their businesses. The presentation skills I developed in the Amrhein Club—having to explain and support the value of a fund to the rest of the group—was perfect preparation for my career.