BLUFFTON - The stock market started booming in the mid-1950s, and so did investment clubs.
Dozens sprang up in northwest Ohio, and by the late 1950s there were at least 150.
Most are long gone, but the Boom or Bust Investment Club, started on the campus of what is now Bluffton University, just turned 50 years old.
During that half-century, the club has donated many thousands of dollars to the university and still controls assets of more than $180,000.
For the last 11 years, the group has been known as the Bluffton University Student Investment Club, and all the profits go to the university.
But students control the investment decisions and the way the proceeds are spent on educational programs.
"This was absolutely a great experience," said Laura Kirkendall, a senior in accounting and business administration who is president of the club and a past treasurer.
"There's a lot of study of stocks, and trading, and I have benefited from the knowledge and I was able to meet many people."
At a monthly meeting this week, the 15 or so members of the club - all volunteers who do not receive any compensation - learned that assets topped $180,000 in mid-March.
"We've done pretty well," said Ms. Kirkendall, who will begin a master's program at the University of Toledo this fall.
Not to be outdone by students, alumni of Bluffton started their own investment group, also for the benefit of the university, called ABC Investment Club in 1982. It donated $300,000 to Bluffton's endowment fund for scholarships in 2002 and kept $30,000 to start over. That $30,000 has grown to $65,000, said Donald Pannabecker, president of the club.
Both the student and alumni investment clubs help boost the 106-year-old Allen County institution that started out as Central Mennonite College in 1900. The school, near I-75 and midway between Findlay and Lima, became Bluffton College in 1914 and Bluffton University in 2004. It has about 1,200 students, in a town of 3,900, and is still affiliated with the Mennonite church.
Among its distinguished alumni are comedienne Phyllis Diller, TV personality Hugh Downs, and Elbert Dubenion, longtime Buffalo Bills pro football player.
Both investment clubs shun "sin stocks" such as alcohol, tobacco, and military or defense companies.
The student club was founded Feb. 21, 1956, when Howard Raid, then a business professor, bought seven shares in the club in an arrangement similar to purchasing shares in a mutual fund. He retired in 1979 and died in 2004, at the age of 91.
An estimated 300 students have participated in the club in the last five decades. In late 1994, the club changed its name and offered members the choice of taking their money or leaving it for university purposes. Many chose to give their money to the university.
Gary Schiefer, associate professor of business and now the club's adviser, said assets were about $50,000 in mid-1995 and have more than tripled since.
"Students make all the decisions," said Mr. Schiefer. "They're getting real-world experience."
Up to 5 percent of the assets each year, he explained, go to such things as field trips, recognition dinners, university equipment, and cash prizes for a student portfolio contest.
The club's portfolio usually has six to 12 stocks, Mr. Schiefer said. It now owns Lowe's Companies Inc.; Wendy's International Inc.; J.P. Morgan Chase & Co.; Honda Motor Co. Ltd., Dell Inc.; and Coca-Cola Co.
"We really believe in the buy-and-hold strategy," he said.
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