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Tom Marsico uses his economic powers for good

“We make a living by what we get,” Tom Marsico says, quoting Winston Churchill. “We make a life by what we give.” Photo: Michael Richmond

When Tom Marsico, MBA ’79, was 15, he visited eight European cities, including Berlin.

“It gave me an appreciation for the freedoms and opportunities we have in the United States,” he says. “I was fortunate at that young age to understand what it means to live in a democracy.”

Marsico is the recipient of DU’s 2006 Professional Achievement Award, which was presented at Founders Day on Feb. 25. It would be easy to point to the billions of dollars that he manages through his company, Marsico Capital Management, and assume that he counts his fortunes in dollars. But, just as he did at 15, Marsico counts different blessings.

His greatest accomplishment, Marsico says, is his relationship with his wife, Cydney, BSBA ’78, MBA ’80, whom he’s known since childhood.

A North Denver native, Marsico was an asthmatic child who became a whiz at chess, card games and any competition of intelligence.

His stock-market acumen developed, he notes, because the business section of the newspaper was located just before sports.

“I kept getting stuck in the business section on the way to sports,” Marsico says. “I loved mental games, so I started coming up with hypotheses on how I thought different stocks would do.”

He smiles. “I did all right.”

Indeed. Marsico served on the U.S. Treasury Department’s Treasury Borrowing Advisory Committee, and his many accolades include Manager of the Year and World Class Manager awards from Morningstar in 1989 and 1994, respectively. Last year, the Marsico Growth Fund received the Lipper Fund Award.

In an age of corporate greed, Marsico sets a standard of integrity. When he was just 29, he took an 80 percent pay cut when he left a company whose management style made him uncomfortable. He then joined Janus Funds, where he posted a 22.5 percent average return each year, outperforming the Standard & Poor 500 by nearly five percentage points.

In 1997, he left Janus to start his own company, taking it from zero assets managed to $63 billion. Of his own wealth, he gives tremendously. He and his wife gave $10 million to DU for the Marsico Initiative to strengthen undergraduate education. He’s given more than $25 million to the University of North Carolina to study genomics and provided start-up funding for Parion Sciences, a company that aims to find a cure for cystic fibrosis. The list goes on.

“Tom knows he’s been blessed and knows he can share the wealth and make a difference,” says Tom Young, a family friend.

“We make a living by what we get,” Marsico says, quoting Winston Churchill. “We make a life by what we give.”

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