True Blue Trail Blazer: Alumnus Brock Ayers is the Organizational Powerhouse Behind the BBIC New York Trip
American author Thomas Wolfe once wrote, “In New York, the opportunities for learning … are probably greater than anywhere else in the world.”
Alumnus Brock Ayers, ’82 ΔΤΔ, would agree. Since 2001, the financial advisor with Wells Fargo Advisors has voluntarily overseen each of the 11 trips that members of the Westminster College Blue Blazers Investment Committee, or BBIC, have taken to the Big Apple.*
The most recent BBIC New York Trip took place Feb. 15-19, 2023.
On each adventure, Ayers simultaneously serves as chaperone, financial expert, fraternity brother, entertainment coordinator, business liaison, and city tour guide, herding an average of 25 students through LaGuardia Airport to various high-profile locations on Wall Street and other famous destinations throughout Manhattan.
Armed with official pieces of the Berlin Wall and books of Winston Churchill quotations to present as gifts to speakers and hosts, the BBIC members consistently charm even the most hardened New Yorkers through Midwestern friendliness and business manners cultivated primarily at Westminster College.
Ayers grins widely like a proud father when discussing decades of students who found career success as a result of their participation in the BBIC.
He readily describes with a chuckle how someone on the subway during the most recent New York trip took note of the students’ required business attire and asked what law firm they were with.
“A lot of colleges take trips, but I don’t think any of them are like ours,” Ayers reflects. “I think we have a unique blend of business and social, between Bloomberg, Fox, the New York Stock Exchange, NASDAQ, and the money managers we visit, our program is unique and based on relationships.”
Many, like junior Jonathan Banza, current CEO of the BBIC, say the New York Trip is life altering.
Yet Ayers refuses to take all the credit.
He is quick to list the vast number of individuals in the Westminster community with involvement: Steve Ford, ’01 ΔΤΔ, came up with the idea of the BBIC New York Trip; New Yorkers Greg Richard, ’88 ΔΤΔ, and Frank Turner, ’84 ΔΤΔ, have consistently supported the trip in a number of crucial ways since the beginning; various faculty members and alumni have traveled with the group over the years; and a sizeable number of Westminster faculty, staff, and friends joined the BBIC on their February 2023 trip.
None of this would be possible, however, without Ayers, who helped found the BBIC in 1996 and for years of pre-Zoom technology traveled to the College each Sunday afternoon from his home in Ballwin, Missouri, to advise the organization.
In the beginning, Westminster’s Board of Trustees invested $100,000 in the investment committee. The Board quickly witnessed the organization’s success, and two months later increased the investment to $200,000.
As of March 2023, as this article is being written, the fund is worth just over $1 million.
Today, the BBIC no longer relies on the fund to pay for their trip. Instead, BBIC members are required to pay $500 per person, while the rest is funded through critical alumni donations.
Students also must thoroughly research and give a presentation on a stock and undergo a professional interview in order to join the highly competitive committee.
Ayers sees these requirements as just another way to give students real-world financial experience: something he received growing up.
“I made my first investment when I was 8 years old,” he says, explaining how his financial advisor father used to discuss the markets each night at the dinner table in their Freeburg, Illinois, home.
His parents taught Ayers and his brother, Bryce, ’92 ΔΤΔ, to give back, which he strongly encourages other Westminster alumni to do.
“I’ve always felt I had a great education at Westminster, and not all of it in the classroom,” Ayers emphasizes, citing the years he spent in the College’s Army ROTC program, leadership opportunities fostered by his membership in the Delta Tau Delta fraternity, his involvement with Alumni Council, and more than 20 years serving on the Board of Trustees, from which he retired last year. “Our alumni always have the chance to engage and make things better for the College.”
He adds that over time, some alumni may take for granted the many positive aspects of a small college. He encourages them to reengage and look with fresh eyes at what he regularly sees through his close involvement with Westminster’s students, faculty, and staff. He thinks they would be pleasantly surprised.
To highlight his point, Ayers describes an “epiphany moment” during the February 2023 BBIC trip, when he watched members of the Westminster group light up after recognizing their strong ties to Winston Churchill apart from the College.
A Blue Blazers reception with alumni at the Redeye Grill this year included several Churchill Fellows and NYC-based supporters of America’s National Churchill Museum — revealing that Westminster is part of something much bigger than most realized. Likewise, the New York Churchillians responded positively to the Westminster group.
Discussing the students’ conversational ability and poise at the event, Ayers illustrates his point through a short but powerful story. Smiling, Ayers says, “An 80-year-old lady leaned over to me and said, ‘You know, I think the future of the country is in the Midwest.’”
To donate to the BBIC New York Trip, you may give online by indicating “BBIC New York Trip” in the drop-down menu of the online designation box, after selecting “Other,” or you may give by check, which should be mailed to the Westminster College Business Office, 501 Westminster Ave., Fulton, Missouri 65251.
Westminster encourages the alumni community to become more involved with the College. Do you have a passion you would like to share with students, a group you would be willing to sponsor, or other ideas about how to give back to your alma mater? We want to hear from you! Please reach out to Melanie Barger, Director of Alumni Engagement, at Melanie.Barger@WCMO.edu.
*Wells Fargo Advisors is a trade name used by Wells Fargo Clearing Services, LLC, Member SIPC.