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Living our values

Durward Ferland’s mission of caring for Wipfli — and the amateur boxing world

Durward Ferland

Durward Ferland became Wipfli Foundation president in June 2023.

As a leader in risk advisory services, Wipfli principal Durward Ferland is as passionate about the advising and mentoring role he has on his team as he is about helping his clients. Giving back, he says, has always been an important value in his life.

When he’s not working, the lifelong Mainer is most likely to be found helping run the all-volunteer Portland Boxing Club, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that organizes and promotes amateur boxing, a sport, he says, that values sportsmanship and safety above all else.

Most of the athletes who train at the club — young men and women — come from disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds, and the club provides a structure and discipline that yields rewards to participants outside the boxing ring.

Durward, who’s volunteered with the club for more than a decade, is now the treasurer and heads up the group’s fundraising and sponsorship efforts, but he also doesn’t hesitate to offer other direct help to the athletes when needed, whether it’s housing or employment assistance. “I’m happy to help wherever I can. It’s gratifying to provide guidance and direction.”

Durward Ferland, risk advisory services leader at Wipfli, left, is committed to helping at-risk youth increase their odds for a stable future.

Durward Ferland, risk advisory services leader at Wipfli, left, is committed to helping at-risk youth increase their odds for a stable future.

Durward, who joined Wipfli in 2018, has recently taken his commitment to give back on the job to the next level. After joining the Wipfli Foundation Board in 2022, he became its president in June 2023.

The board’s previous president, Ken Kortas, put the building blocks in place to expand the scope of the foundation’s mission, which had long focused on providing support to colleges and universities to aid firm recruitment. Earlier this year, the foundation introduced a mobile philanthropic giving program that makes it easy for associates to give to charities of their choice, with a generous match from the Wipfli Foundation. The foundation provides every participant with periodic gifts and U.S.-based associates with a maximum of $500 in dollar-for-dollar matching funds per fiscal year.

Foundation expansion

Durward has championed the inclusion of the firm’s India associates in the matching program, who will be able to participate starting in November. “We had a lot of hoops to go through, but we want to ensure that all associates have equal access to make an impact in the causes that matter to them,” he said. “I’m excited we were able to get this done.”

Currently, about 700 of the firm’s 3,200 associates are based in India.

Matching donation funds are being made available for all new hires on key anniversary dates and on Giving Tuesday for participants in November.

The foundation also anticipates awarding additional grants to support causes that align with the foundation’s core pillars of education and research, health and human services, and public and societal benefit.

Another change coming to the foundation as part of its strategic planning process is the opening up of committee roles to non-board members, allowing a broader pool of associates from all levels of the firm to participate in shaping the work of the foundation.

“I thought it would be an exciting time to lead the foundation through a time of change from a narrower focus to being more visible and accessible to more participants,” he said. “We’ll have a stronger internal and external presence.”

The current Wipfli Foundation Board

The current Wipfli Foundation Board, from left, Shelly Worrel;
Audra Moncur; Stephanie Cavadeas, secretary-treasurer; MaryPat Davitz;
Durward Ferland, president; Jessica Macklin; Ken Kortas, past president.

An accidental boxing passion

Durward was never a boxer and only a casual fan of the sport when he first got involved with the Portland Boxing Club serendipitously more than 10 years ago. What drew him to boxing was his love of photography. “I had heard that boxing was the most difficult environment to shoot in because of the very low light and the fast-moving subjects.

“I pursued it as a photographer because I wanted the challenge. After photographing the first fight from ringside, I was stuck by the level of sportsmanship,” he said. “I came to understand how hard boxers worked to be able to step into the ring. There’s a lot of mutual respect in the sport and that’s what drew me in.”

After a stint volunteering as the club photographer, he broadened his role and handles much of the back office, website and fundraising work so that Bobby Russo, the founder and head coach, can focus his efforts on the athletes.

While the trash talk from professional boxers helps sell tickets to their fights, Durward says the amateur world is something different. “Amateur boxing is very tight-knit community and gives the athletes a sense of belonging. I’m there to support them as a positive role model.”

Durward cited his work with one at-risk young boxer whom he began mentoring as soon as the youth aged out of the foster care system at 18. “I helped him get situated in Portland and his amateur boxing career soon flourished,” he said. The young man participated in eight national tournaments over six years, and he was rated as high as No.2 in the country for his weight class by USA Boxing. Today, he is a successful professional boxer living and training in Boca Raton, Florida. “His success gives me great pride,” Durward added.

 Nothing beats the pride Durward feels about the life achievements of the young fighters he helps. 

Nothing beats the pride Durward feels about the life achievements of the young fighters he helps.

Durward’s commitment to the boxing club effort is the primary way he gives back, but it’s not the only cause he gets behind. He also supports a handful of other local organizations, including the Moosehead Historical Society, Moosehead Marine Museum, Save the Greenville Junction Depot and the Friends of the Mountain, a volunteer group who revitalized a local ski area.

“I prefer to give to smaller local organizations where I can see the impact of my donation at work,” he said.

Whether it’s helping amateur boxers improve their prospects in life or helping Wipfli associates make a difference through the causes that matter to them, nothing makes the risk advisory services leader happier than fostering a culture of caring. 

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