Lynch Shares Experience in Work, Philanthropy
Published: Thursday, January 31, 2013
Updated: Thursday, January 31, 2013 17:01
“With your first sentence, light a fire,” said Peter Lynch, treasurer and founder of the Lynch Foundation, vice chairman of Fidelity Management and Research, trustee of Boston College, and BC ’65. “With your second sentence, build a bridge.”
These were lessons that Lynch learned during an English composition course he took during his time at BC. Returning to BC on Wednesday as a part of the Winston Center for Leadership and Ethics’ Lunch with a Leader program, Lynch spoke about his time as an undergraduate at BC, his experience working for Fidelity Investments, and his current philanthropic efforts with the Lynch Foundation.
His father was a professor in the math department, so Lynch always had a close connection with the University growing up. Describing his time at BC, Lynch said that it was an experience that changed his life, and that courses such as his English class, as well as courses in logic, metaphysics, and epistemology were some of the most influential courses that he took at BC. He also talked about a Jesuit, Rev. John Collins, S.J., who inspired him.
“Fr. Collins was a Jesuit who went to Wharton in the ’40s, which was unusual,” Lynch said. “It used to be hard to get a job from BC. Fr. Collins ran the placement office and helped lots of students get jobs.”
After Lynch graduated from BC, he applied for a summer position at Fidelity, before he began graduate studies at the Wharton School.
“There were 75 applicants for three spots,” Lynch said. “But I caddied for the president of Fidelity, so, short of punching someone, I had a job.”
He returned to Fidelity full-time after completing his M.B.A. program and serving time in the Army. Lynch joined the company as an analyst when there were only 80 employees. He worked his way up until he was running their Magellan Fund in 1977, which he ran until 1990. Under his management, the Magellan Fund averaged an unheard-of 29.2 percent return. This has led him to be classified by Forbes as one of the Top Five most successful investors of all time.
“As an analyst, they give you an industry and you have to learn everything about it,” Lynch said. “With investment decisions, being right seven times out of ten is good. It’s not like pure research. You have to take risks. Trying to predict the future is really tough. I don’t deal with what the market is doing. At the end of the day, it’s what happens to earnings. When a business goes from—this is a technical term—s—ty to semi-s—ty and you can catch the turn-around, you can make money.”
After retiring from Fidelity in 1990, Lynch devoted his time and energy to philanthropic efforts through his Lynch Foundation. He discussed his reasoning behind starting the foundation and what he felt that he could do with it. By putting his money in a foundation, he knew that he could get more out of his money by letting it grow tax-free.
“We have done this for the last 25 years,” Lynch said. “We were one of the first 10 givers to Teach for America. Our first [major] gift to BC went to the school of education. We started a leadership program for charter and public school principals.”
Lynch spoke about how he has always focused on education. One of the factors behind this was his experience at BC and his belief in how education was crucial to improving people’s quality of life.
“Education is the key to everything,” Lynch said. “It’s a meritocracy—but you’ve got to know English; you’ve got to know how to use a computer.”