Stop by Yost Ice Arena on a Friday afternoon during the school year, and you’ll see an unconventional hockey team consisting of Master’s of Business Administration students from the Stephen M. Ross School of Business.
One of the team’s biggest supporters is Nova Scotia native and hockey player David Brophy, professor of finance and director of the Center for Venture Capital and Private Equity Finance.
In almost 50 years of teaching at U-M, Brophy estimates he has taught more than 15,000 students, including many of those on the MBA hockey team, such as his daughter Ann Brophy, a Ross MBA graduate and former varsity hockey player at Brown University. He enjoys supporting his students in their successes on and off the ice.
“It’s a pleasure to work with the young people and to see them succeed, and see where they are now. It’s such an honor to realize that somehow I’ve had an effect on them,” he says.
In Brophy’s popular commercialization course at the Ross School, his U-M graduate and undergraduate students build viable marketing and business plans for new technologies and inventions. The students have helped more than 145 companies from Michigan, India, China and across the United States.
“The student teams pitch directly to investors and get that valuable hands-on experience,” Brophy says. The commercialization course is open to students across the university, as are Brophy’s other courses on venture capital and private equity, all taught from a global viewpoint.
Brophy’s courses are groundbreaking in the field. In the early 1970s, he made Michigan the first business school to offer a course in venture capital.
Brophy became inspired to teach in this field after co-founding Vector Research Inc. (now part of Altarum Institute of Ann Arbor) with Professor Seth Bonder and research associate Bob Farrell, and after witnessing the Detroit auto industry crash. With Detroit’s economic landscape changing dramatically, Brophy saw the opportunity for the local economy to grow in another direction.
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“I was studying entrepreneurship and venture capital funds, which were investing in new technologies. I thought we’d better make it possible to build these companies here in the Midwest, and it was important to have this at the university so that we’re competitive with the rest of the world.”
In May, the Michigan Growth Capital Symposium brought dozens of companies and investors (including some of Brophy’s former students) back to Ann Arbor. Since Brophy founded the symposium in 1979, hundreds of companies have collectively raised more than $800 million dollars.
Investing in high-potential startup companies is a key piece of Michigan’s economic future, Brophy says.
“The lifestyle in Michigan has changed dramatically. We’re no longer dependent on the big auto companies, and we’re much more entrepreneurial. It’s our ‘patch of dirt’ we’re living on and there are great opportunities to invest right here.”
What moment in the classroom stands out as the most memorable?
After our son David was born, I just barely made it to my class, and two of my students, Pete Schaefer and Damian Zakakis, had put a big sign up in the middle of the room, which said “Welcome David Jr.!”
What can’t you live without?
What is your favorite spot on campus?
Yost and the Arboretum.
What inspires you?
The success of the people I work with.
What are you currently reading?
I’ve been reading biographies of Washington, Lincoln and Churchill. I also read a lot about World War II.
Who had the biggest influence on your career path?
My wife, Linda Brophy, my family and Professor John Sears, St. Francis Xavier University.