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Former mentee honours an investment legend

Alumnus J. Sebastian van Berkom celebrates mentor and friend Stephen A. Jarislowsky with new fellowships program
May 17, 2016
By Alyssa Tremblay

While coaching John Molson School of Business students in the art of investing over the past few months, Concordia alumnus J. Sebastian van Berkom has had mentorship on his mind.

“To have a mentor is always a good idea, no matter where you are in life,” says van Berkom, BComm 69.

Alumnus J. Sebastian van Berkom celebrates mentor and friend Stephen A. Jarislowsky with new fellowships program From left to right: Concordia President Alan Shepard; Stéphane Brutus, interim dean, John Molson School of Business; J. Sebastian van Berkom, president and CEO, Van Berkom and Associates Inc.; Stephen A. Jarislowsky, founder and chairman of the board, Jarislowsky Fraser: Global Investment Management; Bram Freedman, vice-president, Advancement and External Relations

To pay tribute to one of his own great mentors and help the next generation of investors achieve similar heights, students in the Van Berkom Small-Cap Investment Management Program will henceforth be known as the Stephen A. Jarislowsky Fellows.

“Stephen was just the ideal mentor,” says van Berkom. “I attribute many of my successes as a small-cap investor to his shrewd advice.”

Stephen A. Jarislowsky Stephen A. Jarislowsky

A Canadian investing legend, champion for good governance and Concordia donor, Jarislowsky felt “very touched” when van Berkom asked to name the fellowships after him.

“It was an unexpected and extremely generous gesture that really speaks to the type of person Sebastian is,” says Jarislowsky.

Concordia President Alan Shepard says the renaming of these fellowships is a fitting gesture: “Knowledge is something we inherit from previous generations, and J. Sebastian van Berkom learned some of the ins-and-outs of investing from his mentor, Stephen Jarislowsky.”

The two men have a lot in common. Both European immigrants, they came to Canada to grow roots and en route established celebrated careers for themselves in the finance world.

When they met in the early 1970s, van Berkom had just completed his bachelor’s degree in commerce from Sir George Williams University, one of Concordia’s founding institutions, and was working for the Bell Canada Pension Fund. Jarislowsky, already a seasoned investor, was brought in once a month as an independent consultant to help manage the fund.

“To get the opportunity to learn from a well-established guru like Stephen Jarislowsky was fantastic,” says van Berkom.

 J. Sebastian van Berkom J. Sebastian van Berkom, BComm 69

Today, he considers Stephen both mentor and friend. The two have known each other for over 40 years and both sit on the board of directors at the Institute for Governance of Private and Public Organizations (IGOPP), an initiative co-created by Concordia’s John Molson School of Business and spearheaded by Jarislowsky himself.

“Mentorship shouldn’t be an extraordinary gesture — it should be the norm,” Jarislowsky says. “We all have the responsibility to pass on what we know and invest in the next generation.”

Stéphane Brutus, interim dean of the John Molson School of Business (JMSB), says the school is lucky to count Jarislowsky among its supporters.

“Stephen Jarislowsky is someone with the ability to groom talent. He didn’t just build a business; he spotted, trained and developed future leaders — including Mr. van Berkom. In recognizing that mentorship, we’ve in many ways come full-circle,” says Brutus.

Established in 2015 through a generous $1-million gift from J. Sebastian van Berkom, the Van Berkom Small-Cap Investment Management Program provides a small group of select JMSB graduate students with an experience that will open the door to a career in the global capital markets.

Each year, six to eight students work under the supervision of the program director, Reena Atanasiadis, to actively manage a portfolio of small-cap stocks.

Van Berkom has high hopes for this first cohort of Jarislowsky fellows.

“I just want to see them blossom,” he says.

Van Berkom has donated more than $2.5 million to Concordia over the years. This spring, he renewed his support for the JMSB with a gift of $250,000 towards the Van Berkom JMSB Small Cap Case Competition.

His mentor has also been incredibly generous. With 29 research chairs (and counting) established across the country, the Jarislowsky Foundation is one of Canada’s pre-eminent private supporters of higher education.

Two of those chairs were established at Concordia: the Stephen A. Jarislowsky Chair in Corporate Governance, held by Michel Magnan, professor in the Department of Accountancy; and the Gail and Stephen A. Jarislowsky Institute for Studies in Canadian Art, which includes a chair held by Martha Langford, professor in the Department of Art History.

“There’s no greater vote of confidence than having two shrewd investors and luminaries of the financial sector betting on Concordia — investing through us to improve our society,” says Shepard.

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