Swensen to return to teaching

Chief Investment Officer David Swensen told the News in a Wednesday interview that he plans to return to teaching in the fall and has no plans to leave his position at Yale in the near future.

Swensen, who leads the Yale Investments Office in managing the University’s $19.3 billion endowment, stopped teaching his undergraduate seminar “Investment Analysis” in mid-September after being diagnosed with cancer last year. Though he declined to comment on the type of cancer or give any information on his prognosis, Swensen said Wednesday that he is in good health, that he is currently working full time at the Investments Office and that he intends to begin teaching again in September.

“It’s good,” Swensen said when asked about his health. “I’ve been working very much a full schedule.”

Swensen said he has told Yale Investments Senior Director Dean Takahashi ’80 SOM ’83, who is the co-instructor of the “Investment Analysis” class and Swensen’s deputy in the Investments Office, that he plans to return to teaching the seminar next fall. The class, which is intended primarily for senior economics majors, is taught every fall semester and involves topics related to institutional investing, including asset allocation, investment strategy and manager selection.

University President Richard Levin told the News on Wednesday that he hopes Swensen makes a full recovery.

“The entire Yale community hopes he will return to full health and is back teaching next year,” Levin said.

Swensen said he does not have plans to step down from his position as CIO any time soon.

“No, I love my job,” he said. “I’m going to miss [University President Richard Levin] enormously, but I’m looking forward to working with [President-elect Peter Salovey and Provost Benjamin Polak.] I think that’s going to be great.”

Since Swensen’s arrival in 1985, Yale’s endowment has grown from just over $1 billion in the late 1980s to $19.3 billion as of June 30, 2012. Swensen is widely credited with redefining the model for institutional investing, pioneering a nontraditional strategy that favors illiquid, alternative assets and that has been widely emulated by many of Yale’s peers.

During the mid-2000s, the Yale endowment saw investment returns of near or above 20 percent before losing nearly a quarter of its value following the onset of the economic recession in 2008. It has since recovered much of its value, posting a 4.7 percent return on its investments in the latest fiscal year.

Though Takahashi originally told the students in “Investment Analysis” last fall that Swensen would not be teaching for about one month due to medical reasons, Swensen ultimately did not return to teach the course at all that semester.

“After a month passed, Takahashi said that Swensen was doing better and resumed working, but he did not explain why he did not return to class,” one student in the class told the News in January, asking to remain anonymous because he did not know whether Swensen wanted information about his health made public. Takahashi only said that Swensen “regretted” not coming to class this year, the student said.

Yanni Legmpelos ’13, a student in the seminar last fall, said the students in the class “definitely missed out” because of Swensen’s absence.

“Swensen’s presence and comments in the first two classes were very interesting and made me feel that he would have a lot more to share in the rest of the semester,” he said. “Those classes were just a warm-up for the semester.”

Last October, Swensen was one of six recipients of the 2012 Yale Medal, the highest award presented by the Association of Yale Alumni for outstanding individual service to the University.

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