How Frank Zipfinger's MBA class ended up raising a $500,000 endowment

When Frank Zipfinger enrolled in a degree at Melbourne Business School almost 20 years ago, he probably didn't expect to end up on the board – or help raise half a million dollars.
Frank was one of the first students to study the Senior Executive MBA program when it was launched in 2003. That decision was the start of a lifelong relationship with the School.
To make your impact, visit

"We were the first cohort to do the degree in its new form, and it was exciting because it was a brand-new program," Frank says.

"We had terrific support from the faculty. We studied some great subjects and we were a small cohort. There were only 26 of us, so there was great camaraderie among the group."

That camaraderie was so strong that when the students came back together for a reunion five years later, they decided to raise what would become one of the School's most influential endowments.

During their studies, the class had visited Bratislava in Slovakia, not long after it parted from the Czech Republic following the collapse of the Soviet Union, and been inspired to help.

"We compared their facilities to what we had enjoyed at MBS, and set about raising $25,000 to help them buy computers and other equipment," Frank says.

Reflecting on that effort at their class's five-year reunion, the students decided to do the same for Melbourne Business School.

"We didn't start off targeting a $500,000 amount," Frank says – but when the School offered to match donations dollar for dollar, it spurred the students on to greater heights.

"The amazing thing about it was – and I'm sure this is the case for just about all of them – that it was a major gift. For just about everybody who gave, it was a major gift in terms of their life experience. I think that just shows the level of passion."

Since then, the Class of 2003 endowment has supported scores of students, social enterprises and projects. Frank is particularly pleased with the support given to the Murra program, which the School started five years ago to help Indigenous-run businesses.

"We funded the program's first three years, and it's now a well-established program that a large number of Indigenous entrepreneurs have gone through successfully," he says.

"One of them was Jasmin Hero, who set up the Teter Mek Foundation, which is doing things that will change the education system around indigenous history, stories and culture."

The Class of 2003 gift has also supported scholarships, including for Part-time MBA student Yohanand Kumaran, who is now the Chief Financial Officer at the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service.

In 2008, Frank joined the board of Melbourne Business School thanks in part to his work with the Alumni Council – and is now Deputy Chairman.

"It was an interesting experience, joining the board. It gives you the opportunity to do more," he says. "The relationships that you have with the faculty and staff are amazing."

As well as helping to establish the Class of 2003 endowment and serving on the board, Frank has continued to be a regular donor to the School since he graduated.

"The view I take is that MBS is an amazing, important institution. It impacts lives. It changes people's views of the world. It gives them the tools to make significant change in business and society generally," he says.

"The work of the School needs to be supported. Providing support in donations is one way in which you can do that."