Gary Selke

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Featured Alumni Profile

Gary Selke, BCom ’78

“It is my responsibility to get involved…I benefited as a student and I should do the same for today’s students.”

Gary Selke (B.Com. 1978) knew that the University of Toronto’s Bachelor of Commerce program was one of the toughest in the country – it was the high standard – and therefore, his first choice. With a rigorous and demanding academic program, he knew he would graduate with the confidence to meet future challenges.

He found himself in a first year class of approximately 1,200 students and along with many others, found the first year very difficult as he made the transition to university and the intensive program.

“I was taking computer science class in my first year and I just hated it!” he says. “Those were the days when computers used card readers that printed out at a different location and I didn’t know how to type, so I made all sorts of mistakes – I was thrilled to pass with a 51 per cent, knowing I would never have to take computer science again!”

For Gary, each year became better academically as he grew more comfortable with the program and he was thrilled to be one of the approximately 200 students to graduate at the end of the four year program and credits much of his success to his professors.

“Professor Smythe who taught me accounting theory and law was not only a great teacher, but a mentor and role model,” says Gary. “I found all of the professors in the program were really willing to give back to their students, and that is something I try to emulate in my life.”

The days of computer science class are far behind Gary now. Upon graduation he became a chartered accountant, practicing insolvency and then went into investment banking. He has been the CEO of Front Street Capital, an asset management company, for the past 13 years.

“My current role is one I take great pleasure in,” says Gary. “It is a career that allows me to continue my lifelong passion for learning. Continual learning is key, as otherwise you repeat your mistakes, and if you continue to learn, perhaps you make new mistakes, but again, you learn from those.”

Alumni involvement with the university is also something that Gary takes very seriously. As a Trinity graduate, he sat on several committees as an alumnus and had a chance to reconnect with professors and other alumni. About four years ago, the former Dean of Arts and Science, Pekka Sinervo over lunch, asked Gary if he would be interested in providing mentorship opportunities for current commerce students. “How could I refuse,” laughs Gary.

Rotman Commerce students are invited for lunch and learn sessions at Front Street Capital where they are able to see how an asset management firm works and meet with portfolio and operation managers, many of whom are also U of T graduates. Gary’s involvement as an alumni garnered him the prestigious Arbor Award, given to outstanding alumni volunteers. “I get enormous satisfaction from giving back to the university and having it recognized was very meaningful to me,” says Gary. “It is my responsibility to get involved – someone did it for me and I benefited and I should do the same for today’s students and hopefully they’ll pass it along in future years.”