Windows of Memorial Union


Anticipating the Future

David Callanan and Cody Foster are betting on Washburn

Cody Foster and David Callanan standing outside on the Washburn campus in front of Henderson

Cody Foster, ba ’99 (left), and David Callanan, bba ’98, in front of Henderson. Photo by Jeremy Wangler

From Bell Tower - 2023
By Brad Porter

David Callanan, bba ’98, and Cody Foster, ba ’99, are invested in Topeka.

The co-founders of Advisors Excel have been sending that message, in both word and deed, for years now. They met as Washburn students, and along with Derek Thompson, bba ’99, joined a local insurance marketing organization after graduation and eventually became independent financial advisors themselves. Unhappy with the marketing assistance available at the time, they started sketching out ideas around Foster’s kitchen table for creating their own insurance marketing organization, and Advisors Excel, LLC was born.

Meeting Unmet Demand

They founded the company in Topeka in 2005, but it was the recession of 2008 that really set them apart. While so many other markets were crashing, the bet they were making – that there was an unmet demand out there among independent financial advisors for high-level marketing support – paid off big-time. Even, or perhaps especially in tumultuous economic times, advisors were hungry for expertise and high impact service in getting their businesses to stand out. Advisors Excel took off like a rocket.

“I think one of the things that has always set us apart – both our business model but also just how Cody and I tend to look at things – is that we think long term,” Callanan explained. “We’re not just looking at last quarter or this quarter, we’re really trying to anticipate demand, and to set ourselves and our clients up for consistent, sustainable growth.”  

Now, the company employs nearly 900 people and manages more than $19 billion in client assets. They also, proudly, remain committed to their hometown. They have become a premier local employer, huge investors in the economic development of the region and a driving force behind making sure Topeka continues developing and retaining the kind of high quality, educated workforce needed to keep the community prospering.

So, they’re doing what they’ve always done – trying to anticipate demand. And, when it comes to making bets on the future of Topeka, they’re betting on Washburn.

As Washburn Goes…

“Washburn is the fulcrum for the success of Topeka,” Callanan said. “For us, as business owners, it is far and away the most significant pipeline we have for talent.”

They estimate as many as 75% of their core leadership are Washburn graduates.

“When you start looking around at what is the single biggest key to the future growth of Topeka, it’s Washburn,” elaborated Foster. “And when we started to think about what is the biggest way we could move the needle at Washburn, how could we have the biggest impact on its future success, we really started to hone in on the Henderson renovation project.”

So this April, the pair decided to make a combined lead gift to the project – their biggest philanthropic commitment to Washburn yet. Combined with other generous early donations, their investment took the project past $10 million of the $15 million goal, immediately vaulting the largest single building renovation project in Washburn’s history to a stage where it began hiring architects and contractors.

“Advisors Excel’s gift will help bring our shared vision to life to create exceptional learning environments for our students,” said Washburn University President JuliAnn Mazachek. “Their commitment to the success of Washburn will have a profound impact on our campus, our community and our workforce in the region. We are incredibly grateful for their support.”

Shared Visions

Callanan and Foster give Mazachek a lot of credit too.

“She was my accounting teacher!” Callanan laughed. “That was the hardest class I took in college. But I have a vivid memory of spending 45 minutes in her office one day where she was walking me through something I wasn’t getting. Which is, by the way, one of the things I appreciated about my time at Washburn, that personal kind of attention.”

Foster, who was on the presidential search committee, said Mazachek’s vision was a big reason why they both felt it was time to make this kind of major investment in Washburn. He relates how they met with her in her very first week as president, and already she was ready and eager to articulate a clear vision for a Washburn that was going to immediately deepen and enrich its engagement with Shawnee county and local businesses.

In Mazachek’s view – which is Foster and Callanan’s view as well – the destinies of Washburn and the community that surrounds it are inexorably intertwined. And the Henderson renovation will help shape both destinies in a positive and impactful way.

“We don’t normally give to buildings,” Foster explained. “But the benefit to this project specifically is so huge. It’s going to elevate the region’s top business school and take it to a whole new level. It’s going to impact the experience of basically every Washburn student, from helping with recruitment to modernizing many of the core curriculum classes everybody takes, to helping Washburn put out high quality young professionals ready to jump right in in the local workforce.”

“As both business leaders and just people interested in keeping our community thriving, we’re making a bet on Washburn’s growth,” added Callanan. “And with the people and leadership they have, the vision they’re striving for, and the smart way Washburn is growing and preparing for the future with things like this project,we think it’s a good bet.”

And as far as making bets on Topeka goes, nearing the 20-year anniversary of founding their company here…well, they’ve been right so far.

Please enter your username and password below. If you do not have a username and password, click "New user registration" to register.

New user registration
Forgotten password

1729 MacVicar Avenue
Topeka, KS 66604 Phone: 785.670.4483