Yale University Creates the Swensen Asset Management Institute

The institute will support faculty research and students, host conferences, and gather experts to the New Haven campus.

Illustration by II

Illustration by II

Yale University has established the Swensen Asset Management Institute, named in honor of the late David Swensen, the university’s long-time chief investment officer who revolutionized endowment investing.

Tobias Moskowitz, a renowned Yale professor who, along with Swensen, helped start one of the few asset management master’s programs in the U.S. at Yale, will be the institute’s inaugural director, the university said in an announcement on Tuesday.

“The new Swensen Asset Management Institute will enhance the school’s existing asset management efforts — from curricular offerings to research to professional connections. Our programs will leverage the expertise of faculty from across Yale as well as a network of investment practitioners to put the school on the cutting edge of the technical side of investing while also ensuring investment decisions benefit a wide range of stakeholders,” Moskowitz said.

The institute will create an endowment fund to support the Swensen Institute’s activities and its directorship, as well as create new endowed professorships, provide additional scholarship funding, and develop innovative programming, all focused on asset management. A scholarship fund will also be created to help the school provide financial support to students in the master’s in asset management program.

“The students in this master’s program represent all that David had hoped for as he worked to create both the program and the curriculum. David was firmly committed to increasing opportunities in the financial sector for women, underrepresented groups, and first-generation students,” Meghan McMahon, Swensen’s widow, said.

The institute was funded by an anonymous $20 million donation, which the university said was “among the most significant the school has received.” It will be located in Edward P. Evans Hall, the same building as the Yale School of Management.

Swensen began managing Yale’s endowment in 1985 and his innovative approach to portfolio management led to investments in non-traditional asset classes, such as natural resource funds, private equity, and venture capital. Over the 35 years that followed, the endowment generated $36 billion in added value relative to a benchmark portfolio.

Swensen’s approach, detailed in his popular book Pioneering Portfolio Management, became known as the “Yale Model,” influenced numerous investors, and made “Yale cubs” sought after hires. Many endowment managers, including at Rockefeller University, Princeton University, the University of Pennsylvania, and Smith College, trained with Swensen in courses he taught at Yale or while working for him in the Yale Investments Office.

“It’s not a coincidence that Yale has had such a powerful influence in the world of asset management. David Swensen’s example showed how investing with intellectual rigor, purpose, and a sense of mission could create an unbeatable combination. I’m glad that the Institute with David’s name will carry forward that legacy and expand its impact in the future,” Paula Volent, the CIO of Rockefeller University who worked with Swensen at the Yale Investments Office early in her career, said in a statement.

Joel Getz, deputy dean for alumni, development, and special initiatives at Yale School of Management, said that “no one more than David Swensen” valued the impact philanthropy has on institutions and society.

“I am confident that the establishment of the Swensen Asset Management Institute will ensure that the best is still ahead for the field of asset management and that David’s philosophy will be instilled in future generations of scholars and practitioners,” Getz said.