Grinnell senior invested in educating peers about financial markets

Jan. 03, 2024David Eason ’24 grew up in Lamoni, Iowa, so Grinnell was always on his radar. But it wasn’t until his sister, Lizzie Eason ’17, attended and adored Grinnell that he started to think seriously about following suit. 

David Eason ’24
   David Eason ’24

“It was a combination of my sister’s love and Grinnell having by far the best financial aid package,” says Eason. He’s thankful for the aid he’s received from the College, particularly the scholarships from alumni donors that enabled him not to worry about loans. 

“Not having to worry about finances is huge, especially when you want to focus on your studies,” he says. 

Eason’s interest in finance and investing on a larger scale grew when he came to Grinnell. An economics major with a statistics concentration, Eason says he has been interested in economics since middle school, calling it “a long-term love of mine.” But it was the statistics concentration that really took him by surprise. He didn’t take a statistics class at Grinnell until his second year – and after that, he was hooked.

“I don’t know which one I’m more passionate about, and that’s wonderful,” says Eason. The joint passion led him as a second-year student to join the Pioneer Capital Investment Club. He became one of the club’s leaders in fall 2022. Founded in 2000, the Club’s objective is to educate students about financial markets. Members include domestic and international students of all classes and many majors.

“There’s a super strong desire for finance and investment-related things in Grinnell, but there are not many classes or organizations out there,” he says. “That’s where we come in.”

Since its founding, the club has managed $100,000 of the College’s endowment. Club members discuss how to manage the portfolio and make suggestions about how to invest the money, asking the Investment Office for approval. The portfolio currently has about $300,000. This process has been fundamental to providing club members with real-world experience.

“We’re very lucky,” says Eason. “Even larger schools don’t tend to have these arrangements.”

John Estes, a senior vice president at D.E. Shaw Group, spoke to the Pioneer Capital Investment Club.
John Estes, a senior vice president at D.E. Shaw Group, spoke to the Pioneer Capital Investment Club in the fall semester.

The interest in the club is more than Eason ever could have expected. He says he doesn’t even have to market the club; students find him to ask about it. When he joined, there were only five students involved. Under Eason and his fellow co-presidents, Saule Keliauskaite ’23 and Simon Hodson ’25, the club has grown to average 25 students per meeting. Eason continues to think of ways to further expand.

In addition to regular club meetings on Wednesdays at 8 p.m., the club offers a portfolio management course. Eason aspires to develop a personal finance component, as many students come to the club hoping to learn how to manage their own finances.

“It’s not something the club has ever offered, but there’s clearly interest,” says Eason. “And where there’s interest, there’s opportunity.”

At the end of last semester, Eason organized a talk with John Estes, a senior vice president at D.E. Shaw Group, a quantitative financial firm. Club turnout nearly doubled for the event. He hopes to put on more speaking events in the future, including some with Grinnell alums.

Last February, the club traveled to the 2023 Annual Venture Capital & Private Equity Conference at Harvard Business School. Their trip was entirely funded through the Donald and Winifred Wilson Center for Innovation and Leadership, which was endowed by Donald Wilson 1925 and Winifred Wilson 1927.

David Eason '24 is joined by Saule Keliauskaite '23, left, Clayton Burton '23, and Simon Hodson '25 for a photo.
David Eason '24 is joined by Saule Keliauskaite '23, left, Clayton Burton '23, and Simon Hodson '25 for a photo at the 2023 Annual Venture Capital & Private Equity Conference at Harvard Business School.

Eason says the club leadership met with Mike Lawrence, director of the Business & Finance Career Community in the Center for Careers, Life and Service (CLS), to plan their pitch, then emailed the Wilson Center thinking it would be the beginning of a long process. But to Eason’s delight and surprise it only took that one email for the Wilson Center to fund the trip in its entirety. He heavily encourages students, particularly those interested in business and finance, to take advantage of the multitude of resources offered by the Wilson Center.

Although they haven’t traveled since, the club is planning another trip out to Boston – this time, to the Massachusetts branch of the College’s Investment Office. Eason has been working with Jainen “JT” Thayer, Grinnell College chief investment officer, to plan the trip over spring break; he hopes it will provide club members with a much more in-depth look at the practical side of investing.

Eason’s desire to expand interest and knowledge in economics also led him to join the economics Student Educational Policy Committee, where he promotes the club and helps others find what areas they’re most passionate about. He also works in the Data Analysis and Social Inquiry Lab (DASIL), where he helps up-and-coming statistics students the way he was helped.

Outside of Grinnell, Eason completed a summer 2022 internship with Macrobond Financial in New York City through the International Internship Fund for Business and Finance within the CLS. This program is funded by Atanas Djumaliev ’03 and Ekaterina Pekarskaya ’05, Grinnell grads who share Eason’s passion for finance.

“They covered all my living costs. It was so valuable,” says Eason. “That internship helped me gain experience that really stands out on my resume.” He says his internship with Macrobond Financial is the thing that stands out most to interviewers. 

Although he’s excited to graduate and hopes to work in portfolio management or data science, Eason will miss the community he’s helped build among club members. He’s confident that the next leaders will keep expanding and diversifying the club as he has done, and that the support of donors will enable the club to keep flourishing.

“My favorite part is after the meeting,” says Eason, “when students stick around to ask us something very specific, we get to have good chats and get to know new students.”

— by Clara Bode ’26

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