Even in his office, RJ Devick’s bookshelf gives him away. Tucked among the financial planner’s many volumes on estate planning and tax strategies are books on the American Revolution and the Roaring Twenties, a photographic history of China, and biographies of historical figures ranging from Thomas Jefferson to Albert Einstein to Winston Churchill.
by Kate Tyler
As a principal with the Twin Cities firm Bond & Devick, Devick spends much of his time devising estate plans and investment portfolios for retirement-age professionals. Yet he’s also remained the eager and idealistic student of history he was at the University (class of 1991)—and even earlier. As a boy in Mound, Minn., he grew up watching Patton and other World War II films with his grandfather, who owned a dairy farm next door. Spellbound by his grandfather’s stories of having served in Patton’s army, the young Devick also came to share his grandfather’s interest in the Revolutionary War and then, on a family trip to Washington, D.C., developed a keen interest in America’s political past.
Still, Devick—the first in his family to go to college—started out as a U freshman “thinking I should major in business,” he recalls. “But my adviser pointed out that I’d have plenty of time after graduation to knuckle down and do the practical thing, so I followed my passion instead.” He took every history course he could find, whether on art, U.S. diplomacy, economics, or Asia. One favorite was a course in Russian history taught by Theo Stavrou—“he’s just a rock star,” Devick says.
Just how Devick became a top financial adviser is a case study in the versatility of the liberal arts and the magic of serendipity. After stints with the Nature Conservancy and on a congressional campaign, Devick was a restless junior manager with a St. Paul casualty company when a boss impressed with Devick’s well-rounded intelligence and personability steered him to Penny Bond. She promptly hired Devick for her growing financial planning firm and mentored him in the complexities of retirement, estate, and tax planning. Six years ago, he became a full partner.
“I love what I do—it’s the greatest job on earth,” says Devick. “We do get down to taxes and investment strategies, but most of our face-to-face time is about life stuff, the grandkids, catching up. It’s a perfect fit for me, because I just love helping people realize their hopes and dreams.”
That love takes many forms. He is a longtime volunteer for the Minneapolis homeless shelter People Serving People, where he has tutored fourth-graders and now leads a fundraising campaign. He has helped the St. Paul-based Children’s Home Society raise funds for an orphanage in Ethiopia, reflecting a deep concern for the well-being of the world’s children—a concern Devick traces back to high school readings about the killing of infant girls in China. R.J. and Teresa Devick have three daughters of their own, including one adopted from Korea and one from Ethiopia.
Devick also has maintained strong ties to the University, and not only as a Gopher football fan. “I never miss a history department alumni lunch,” says Devick.
“‘History doesn’t repeat, but it rhymes’—I don’t remember who said it, but it’s on the mark. My history education opened my eyes and my mind to the world. And in investments, I make better judgments because I know about the Tulip Craze and the Roaring Twenties—it’s why my clients didn’t get more hurt when the tech bubble burst.”
Devick is funneling his gratitude for his education into a new cause: raising money for what he hopes will become the Sara Evans Chair in Comparative Women’s History, named after the U’s internationally respected Regents Professor of History.
“Sure, most of the books on my shelf are on Washington, Adams, and their ilk,” smiles Devick, who is spearheading a CLA campaign emphasizing gifts of all sizes from fellow history alums. “But I’m also one of those people who realizes the importance of telling all of history’s stories. Sara broke ground in moving the field of history beyond ‘great white guys,’ and she helped put this University on the map. She richly deserves to be honored.”