In his professional career in global finance, Robin Doumar '81 has reached the highest echelons. As the founder and managing partner of Park Square Capital LLP, one of Europe's leading private debt management firms with $10 billion under management, he regularly works on deals worth millions.
While it might be expected that he would elevate prowess in math and business as the keys to success, his Homecoming Chapel on Friday focused on profound lessons inculcated through his 12-year journey at Norfolk Academy. He told students that he was shaped by the values and culture of this "very unique place," and the Honor System was of the greatest importance, although as a student, he didn't fully appreciate its impact.
"I wasn't sure how applicable the Honor Code was in the real world. It is super important, when you are dealing with people, money, and transactions," he said. "If you boil down what I do every day, I am determining the value of other people's promises."
Throughout his speech, he touched on aspects of Norfolk Academy life that helped him make ethical, thoughtful decisions in the business world: the school's public speaking program, culminating in the senior speech; his participation in football and lacrosse teams; and his membership on the debate team, which taught him about listening to reasonable arguments from the other side.
"I don't want everyone in the room to agree with me," he noted. "Positive conflict is vitally important."
The students' listening skills were on full display in the Johnson Theater, where an audience of juniors and seniors -- arrayed in blue and orange for Homecoming--listened with rapt attention as Mr. Doumar explained his life path, which has taken him from Norfolk to London, where he has resided with his family for the past two decades. The speech was also attended by mother, Mrs. Dot Doumar, and his father, the Hon. Robert G. Doumar, a federal judge on senior status with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.
After Norfolk Academy, Mr. Doumar received his bachelor's degree from Brown University, where he played lacrosse. He received a law degree and an MBA from the University of Virginia. He serves as a trustee for the Darden School Foundation at UVA and on the Board of Governors of the Watson Institute at Brown. Before founding Park Square, Mr. Doumar spent 15 years at Goldman Sachs in New York and London.
He brought his speech to the current global moment--the Covid-19 pandemic and the challenge of understanding it accurately. He said that the news media, and social media in particular, were not helpful, because the business model is driven by getting clicks and providing entertainment to an audience in order to sell ads. He said that a clear assessment of what was happening relied upon filtering out "the noise" and using data and statistics to evaluate a rapidly-evolving situation.
He returned to the point forcefully later during a live Q & A session with students, when he was asked how an individual can filter out the noise. "I am not on Facebook or Instagram. It is giving away your data. It is people taking advantage of you," he said. "I just turn off the feeds."
Another student asked, "What makes NA feel like home?"
"The people and the culture," Mr. Doumar responded without a second of hesitation. "There's something about Tidewater, Virginia, there's something about the people at NA, that Dennis Manning has been here for a long period, there's continuity. They create a culture that's very hard to replicate."
The school's first full-schedule Homecoming since the pandemic continued to unfold on Friday with pep rallies, athletic events, the Homecoming Football Game, a Game Day dinner, and the Bulldog Bash for the classes of 2000 to 2018. Saturday opens with the Ken Lampert Memorial Family Fun Run and includes campus tours and the Decades Reunion Party at the Pit.