2014 Top Small Endowment Investor: Adele Gorrilla

As head of Denison University’s investment office, Gorrilla increased the fund’s assets from $536 million in 2007 to $747 million today.

adele gorilla
Paul Doane

Paul Doane

Adele Gorrilla began her financial career as an analyst at Goldman, Sachs & Co. in 1999 following her graduation from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. She soon realized she wanted something a bit different. After a two-year stint at Okabena Investment Services, a Minneapolis-based family office, she moved to the University of Minnesota Foundation as director of investments. Five years later, in October 2008, during the thick of the financial crisis, Gorrilla was hired by the trustees of Denison University to lead the Granville, Ohio–based liberal arts school’s small investment office. She brought her can-do attitude to a fund that was in the process of falling to $536 million from $693 million over the course of that year. Amid talk of selling assets, Denison held fast to its asset allocation, which includes 36 percent in illiquid investments. “We didn’t panic,” says Gorrilla, 37. The CIO credits a strong lineup of managers with some of her success. “The crisis led to some great opportunities,” she explains of the decision to continue to invest in real estate, energy and private markets. Today, with $747 million, the endowment fund is well past its 2007 asset level and has a five-year annualized return of 4.3 percent, above the average of 4 percent for its peer group, according to the Nacubo–Commonfund Study.