Mixing Business and Rollins is Formula for Success for Alumni Business Partners

September 01, 2011

By Warren Miller

Rollins alumni Vic Zollo ’73 and John Race ’77 ’84MBA have maintained strong family ties to their alma mater since graduating. They not only married their college sweethearts (Jacquelynn Shuttleworth Zollo ’73 and Sandra Smith Race ’78), but they have staffed their Winter Park-based institutional asset management company with a host of Rollins graduates (a quarter of the firm’s employees hold Rollins degrees), and they regularly offer internships to Rollins students.

The business partners met at another Central Florida institution, the Orlando-based Sun Bank (now SunTrust). Zollo joined Sun Bank after graduating from Rollins in 1973, and Race came on board in 1979. In 1985, they joined two other colleagues to start an investment management group within the bank. That was Zollo and Race’s first direct involvement in the money-management business.

They spent the next decade building the group into an institutional firm with assets of more than $15 billion. Then, in 1995, along with friend and partner Greg DePrince, Zollo and Race decided to venture out on their own, and DePrince, Race & Zollo, Inc. (DRZ) was born.

The three men have been partners ever since (“Not only that, we’re still friends!” Zollo said) in a business that currently manages more than $6.5 billion in assets.

While their career paths have paralleled, Zollo and Race took very different paths to Rollins. Zollo was a standout high school baseball player in Beacon Falls, Connecticut who came to Rollins on an athletic scholarship after being recruited by the late legendary coach Boyd Coffie ’59 ’64MAT. “I was lucky to play in Coach Coffie’s first season,” said Zollo, who was captain of the team his second year. “Boyd is an example of the significance of Rollins connections. He was a great influence on my life and became a close, lifelong friend.”

Race, who grew up in the Chicago area, entered Rollins as a pre-med student, but—in true investment-management style—decided he needed to hedge his bet and elected a double major. He started taking business courses in his junior year and after graduating went on to the Crummer School to pursue an MBA.

“Crummer prepared John to become a leader at a young age,” said Zollo, noting that Race was named CEO of Sun Bank’s investments subsidiary when he was only 29.

The ability of Rollins to prepare students for leadership is one reason why DRZ hires Rollins graduates and encourages them to go to Crummer. “Out of our 40 employees, 11 are Rollins graduates,” Race said. “And of those 11, six have MBAs from Crummer. Rollins gives its students a well-rounded education. It’s a small school that forces you to develop strong interpersonal skills, which is essential in marketing and client service. MBA students get a strong indoctrination into finance, which is essential in our business.”

Zollo and Race have provided ongoing volunteer support for the College. Zollo sits on Rollins’ Board of Trustees and is past chair of The Rollins Fund and the Rollins Athletic Council. Race serves on the Crummer Board of Overseers and also chairs Crummer’s SunTrust Portfolio Endowment analysis committee, which makes investment-allocation decisions for the school’s $500,000 SunTrust Scholarship Endowment Fund, established in 2003. Recommendations to the committee are made by students in the MBA program’s investment class—a class which Race regularly visits to discuss his company’s day-to-day operations and business strategies, including how it values securities and chooses stocks.

Both Zollo and Race credit their liberal arts education with providing important lessons on personal development that have been critical to their business endeavors. “Technical skills and knowledge are important, certainly,” Zollo said, “but there’s also intuition and a degree of art involved. In the investment world, the differentiator is the people, not the strategy. And developing people is where Rollins is a wonderful asset.”

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