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An Underdog in a Big World: Texas Lutheran University’s Bulldog Investment Co. Celebrates 15 Years with International Award

(June 28, 2024 | Seguin, Texas) The master of ceremonies introduced Texas Lutheran University as a competitor, then paused, confused. Picture it: Rice University. The 2020 Texas Investment Portfolio Symposium—an event that had drawn over 40 schools from the southwestern United States. The big schools were there in full force: Baylor, University of Texas, Texas A&M, Louisiana State, Oklahoma State. They came to learn, to network, to hear from some of the greatest minds in the business world. And they came to compete. One of the main events? The Portfolio Manager’s Competition.

And the emcee announced TLU, then mumbled, “TLU? Where’s that?”

He wouldn’t have to wonder for long, because in that competition, TLU outperformed every one of its rivals and carried away the victory. “We beat Baylor, Tulane, University of Dallas, Texas State, SMU, University of North Texas, and Rice,” says Dave Sather, founder of Bulldog Investment Company, an internship program at TLU. It was Sather who had brought the students to the symposium—and they didn’t just win that year. They won the year before that . . . and the year before that, beating out huge universities every time. “The first time we beat a very cocky Baylor team. They were incredibly shocked,” says Sather with a grin.

But this story begins many years before any of that happened. It all started in a classroom in Seguin, Texas. Sather, who is now a certified financial planner and CEO of the Sather Financial Group, Inc.—ranked as one of the top wealth management firms in the nation—was a student at TLU, pursuing his BA in business management.

“I had phenomenal professors in college that went out of their way to make sure I had lots of opportunities, both inside and outside the classroom,” he says. What he appreciated most back then was the fact that his teachers were presenting lessons based upon practical, real-world experience. “Practicing professors really made the education come alive in a much more engaging manner.”

Sather graduated TLU in 1989 and went on to pursue his MBA at Texas A&M University.

Fast forward to 2009. Sather wanted to go back to his alma mater and return the favor. He created the Bulldog Investment Company as a way of helping college students to learn how to read and interpret financial statements. And not just business majors, either, but students in any field of study. “This was an easy opportunity for us to use our professional experience in a classroom setting,” he says. What started as a course in financial analysis eventually evolved into more. Students learned to make presentations, speak publicly, and defend their arguments under pressure.

The program was modeled on the methods of renowned businessman, investor, and philanthropist Warren Buffett. “In addition to being extremely successful, Buffett is a great teacher,” says Sather. He had his students study the books, videos, and annual reports that documented Buffett’s accomplishments. “This allowed us to start piecing together how Buffett had been so successful and distill it down to the key components that could be taught in a college classroom.”

The program started small. “The first semester, there were five kids,” says Sather. “Today, the program is quite a bit larger which gives more kids an opportunity to participate.” Every year, the program grows, becoming more refined with each passing semester. These days, it boasts a leadership team, a website manager, and an alumni manager. Sather says Bulldog Investment Company’s portfolio has outperformed the S&P 500 by 268 percentage points or 15.6 percent per year.

“The depth of expertise utilized by the students has grown immensely,” says Sather. “Some of the original presentations were basic and simple. The presentations and depth of analysis are now incredibly sophisticated. Most student presentations are the type of thing you might expect in a Fortune 500 boardroom.” And as the students learn, they become teachers and mentors to new members, gaining not only knowledge but confidence along the way.

“Being able to be a part of BIC allowed me to expand my learning capabilities incredibly and for that I'm forever thankful,” says member Joaquin Rodriguez.

Every Friday afternoon, the Bulldog Investment Company meets for two-plus hours. And every Friday, when Dave Sather hops into his car to drive home, he calls his wife, who is a professor at a large university. She’ll say, a hint of sarcasm in her voice, “Okay, tell me how great your students are now.”

“She knows the quality and dedication of the kids in Bulldog Investment Company is something akin to being a Navy SEAL,” says Sather. “These kids really take it to another level. And my wife recognizes that this level of dedication and performance does not happen at other universities.”

Even during the pandemic, the group continued to meet together in person, focusing on whatever task was at hand. “It was a true team effort with tremendous camaraderie. Meeting in person gave us all purpose and passion,” says Sather.

Upon joining the program, students are expected to commit to staying in it for two semesters. But Sather is finding that that’s not happening. They’re staying for six semesters on average—some as long as ten. Each new generation of students soon realizes, as they look over the names and accomplishments of those who came before them, that they are part of something big. Something that signifies so much more than a college internship program.

This spring, BIC entered the ACBSP International Student Showcase Competition with a presentation that outlined the program and how it works. ACBSP (Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs) provides accreditation for more than 1,200 businesses programs in colleges and universities around the world. And once again, the underdog triumphed. TLU’s Dylan Swanson, William Errett, and Joaquin Rodriguez took the prize.

“Receiving this award has been a true blessing,” says Rodriguez. “We spent countless hours making sure that our presentation was perfect.” The team was ecstatic when they learned they’d be attending the conference in Miami this June, representing both TLU and Bulldog Investment Company.

“I am truly amazed at the poise, effort, intellect and composure of these TLU students,” says Sather, who accepted the award alongside his team in Miami this week. “They are able to not only compete, but win at the most elite levels. At a time when many question the value of a college education, these TLU students show the distinct quality and value of a TLU education.”

The annual ACBSP conference draws participants from around the world and provides an opportunity to network and learn from some of the top thinkers in the field of business education.

“Being able to ‘brag’ about (Bulldog Investment Company) and show the world that we are the best is why we work so hard,” says Rodriguez. “It’s why we stay up the night before all of our presentations until 2 to 3 a.m.—why we decide to show up to a classroom at 1:30 p.m. and stay until 4 p.m. on a Friday afternoon. The reason we do it is to be perfect in every way possible.”

The reason may also have something to do with a man who returned to his alma mater 15 years ago to create a unique program that would use real-world experience to inspire his students and instill them with wisdom and the confidence to share it. And a summer trip to Miami to receive their award and talk about it all before an international audience seems like a pretty perfect way for an underdog—who’s surprised everyone— to celebrate.

Professor Dave Sather (far right) along with his team, Dylan Swanson, Joaquin Rodriguez, and William Errett at the 2024 ACBSP Conference in Miami in June.