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Grinnell College Nabs CIO From Oberlin

Jainen Thayer, currently the CIO at the Oberlin College investment office, has been tapped as Grinnell’s next investment chief.

  • By Alicia McElhaney

Grinnell College has poached the Oberlin College endowment’s chief investment officer to serve as its own CIO. 

Grinnell announced this month that it had hired Jainen Thayer, Oberlin’s current CIO, to join the endowment in mid-September. The hiring follows a months-long national search, according to the announcement.

Thayer will oversee $1.87 billion at the Iowa-based endowment, more than double the $872 million under management at Oberlin.

“Jainen’s experience with leading investment operations at a liberal arts institution and his deep expertise in the field will serve Grinnell well,” Grinnell president Raynard Kington said in a statement. “He brings an extensive investment and financial analysis knowledge base to our strategic priority of ensuring financial sustainability.”

Thayer has spent roughly six years as the chief investment officer at Oberlin. During fiscal year 2017, the endowment returned 13.5 percent, according to the college’s annual report. The average U.S. endowment earned 12.2 percent over the same period, according to the NACUBO-Commonfund Study of Endowments.

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Prior to working for Oberlin, Thayer spent roughly a year working as New York University’s director of investments, according to his LinkedIn page. Prior to that, he worked as a managing director for Fortress Investment Group.

“It is an honor to join this storied institution to manage an endowment with such a unique legacy of historical success,” Thayer said in a statement. “I will be building on a strong foundation and look forward to the work ahead.”

Thayer will fill a role left open by the departure of Scott Wilson, Grinnell’s chief investment officer of seven years. Wilson left in November 2017 to serve as the CIO at Washington University in St. Louis, after delivering an 18.8 percent gain – one of the best single-year returns of any college endowment – for Grinnell in fiscal year 2017.

Andrew Choquette served as the interim CIO for roughly four months, while Grinnell searched for a replacement. However, Choquette left in January to join Wilson at Washington University, where he was hired as a managing director.

After Choquette’s exit, David Clay, Grinnell’s former treasurer of more than two decades, took on the role of interim investment chief. He had been serving as a senior advisor at Grinnell since stepping down from the CIO role at the end of 2013.

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