NYU Taps Michelle Knudsen as Next CIO

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation alum joins at a pivotal time for the endowment.


New York University has tapped Michelle Knudsen to be the chief investment officer of its $6 billion endowment.

Knudsen will join NYU at the end of June from the $9 billion Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, where she served as a senior portfolio manager since 2019.

She joins at a pivotal time for NYU’s investment office, which is facing pressure from inside and outside. Several key staff members have departed the investment office and students are calling for certain divestments related to the Israel-Hamas war.

NYU’s prior CIO, Kathleen Jacobs, stepped down in September 2023, as well as Cynthia Nascimento, managing director of investments. Jacobs landed at RWJBarnabas Health, where she is now building out an investment office.

That build-out includes hiring not only Nascimento, but also Adri Chaikin, Patrick Delaney, Todd Elfman, and Marie Birman, all of whom were previously at NYU’s endowment. NYU also lost Lou Fernandes, who departed in January 2023 for a CIO post at the Museum of Modern Art.

NYU did not immediately respond to a call and email seeking comment on the departures.

However, in a statement about Knudsen, NYU executive vice president Martin Dorph said: “NYU’s endowment is among the 30 largest university endowments; the resources it provides are incredibly important to the University and require an especially qualified and talented professional to be our CIO. In Michelle, we have found such a person. She brings excellent experience to the position and impressed me and members of the Investment Committee with her insights, her understanding of NYU’s needs, and her team management skills.”

Prior to her work at the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Knudsen held a series of positions at outsourced CIO firm Partners Capital Investment Group. Most recently, she was head of absolute return and credit strategies, according to LinkedIn. Before joining Partners, Knudsen was a financial analyst at Goldman Sachs.

The search was undertaken by Traci Lerner, a NYU Trustee and chair of the investment committee.

“She impressed the search committee with her intellect, creativity, energy, and insight,” Lerner said of Knudsen in a statement. “We believe she will make an enormous contribution to NYU as both our CIO and as an engaged member of our community.”