The ink was still drying on Denis’s last exam when he put up his hand to become a Student Investment Fund (The Fund) Foundation member, pledging $10,000 toward the program.
“I’ve seen first-hand the impact giving back can have on a community and know how much it can change people’s lives. It’s a powerful thing and I would like to start that journey,” he said.
Denis was nine years old when his parents passed away leaving him and his siblings orphans, and his 21-year-old sister the family’s legal guardian. A scholarship to attend St Joseph’s Nudgee College gave Denis the opportunity he needed to focus on his schooling.
“It put me through school and gave me the benefit of a really good education. The doors that opened for me were huge, I truly am grateful for the opportunities,” he said.
Denis had often thought about how he wanted to ‘pay it forward’ and was talking to Griffith’s Professor of Finance, Robert Bianchi, about an idea to start a not-for-profit investment fund.
“It turned out Professor Bianchi had been working on a similar idea for the past couple of years, which was about to become a real thing and they were looking for donors. I put my hand up straight away, as it was a great way to get involved,” he said.
The Fund gives eligible students the opportunity to invest in socially responsible ASX listed companies, with all Fund dividends reinvested into GBS student scholarships.
Denis was one of the first students to benefit from the real-world educational opportunities The Fund offers its students. He was also the recipient of the Karl Morris Scholarship–named after scholarship donor and fellow alumnus Karl Morris AO–giving him much-needed help when he was juggling full-time work and study.
A mature-age student, Denis had to take every opportunity to cram, making time to study on long-haul flights and in departure lounges, while traveling for work. Unfortunately, Denis ended up in hospital in the last year of his degree and recalls asking for his laptop moments after waking up from major surgery.
“The nurses thought I was crazy but I told them I have to do this,” he said.
The flexibility of online study and the ‘second to none’ support he received from Griffith were some of the many factors helping him to get through his Bachelor of Commerce degree.
“Griffith has quite innovative education tools and infrastructure, like the Trading Rooms and Bloomberg Terminals, along with the University’s ability to bring in mentors and subject matter experts.
It adds a lot of value to GBS and the finance curriculum,” he said.
Denis plans to return the favour to other students like him, who have the passion and drive to succeed and pursue a university education but need a little help to get them through.
“It’s all worthwhile. You get as much back when you give to others and sometimes a lot more. It’s very satisfying to do this and to be in a position to do so,” he said.
Not one to sit on his laurels, he is already thinking about other ways to give back.
“Giving is not just financial, it’s about your time too. I was very fortunate to have some fantastic mentors and I would like to be able to offer the same to other students. The ultimate prize is to move from a life that is successful to a life that is meaningful to others,” he said.
“I have heard a saying that goes something like, ‘we make a living by what we get but we make a life by what we give.’ The impact you can have on others is something I have seen through my own eyes, it’s a powerful thing and I want to start that journey.”