Joining the investment team at the University of Washington in 2006 may have been the best career choice that Sam Smithever made. He ended a three-year stint as an investment banker with Lehman Brothers Holdings before the financial services giant’s bankruptcy filing two years later. The Seattle-based university’s consolidated endowment fund, where Smith is a senior research officer for the hedge fund portfolio, suffered from the ensuing crisis but has since bounced back: Down 23.3 percent in the first six months of 2009, it gained 12.5 percent the next year, and its returns have kept climbing. The fund rose 13.5 percent in fiscal 2013; with $2.35 billion in assets, 17 percent of that total in absolute-return investments, it’s topped its precrisis peak of $2.16 billion. Smith, 39, is a graduate of the University of Colorado, where he earned a JD and an MBA. He sits on the board of Mekong Capital, a Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam–based private equity manager.