$35 million campaign honors Swensen

Friends and colleagues of Chief Investment Officer David Swensen celebrated the completion of the “Swensen Initiative,” a one-year fundraising campaign that raised $35 million, at a dinner the Development Office threw in Swensen’s honor on Aug. 22.

The initiative, a brainchild of former University President Richard Levin, began last fall and ran the entirety of the 2012–’13 academic year. University President Peter Salovey said the University tailored the “mini-campaign” toward a network of people who know and admire Swensen, who is responsible for managing the University’s roughly $19 billion endowment. Yale will funnel the $35 million raised toward the parts of the University that are important to Swensen himself, such as innovations in teaching and financial aid.

“It was a very successful fundraising effort,” Salovey said. “And of course [honoring Swensen] was great. David’s work has produced greater financial resources for Yale than any other single activity.”

Part of the $35 million raised will establish an endowment of a professorship in economics, a fund for teaching innovation and a coaching position for the women’s tennis team in Swensen’s honor, Vice President for Development Joan O’Neill said. Swensen is an “avid player,” she added, and he and Levin hosted the annual “Levin-Swensen Tennis Extravaganza” to fundraise while Levin was president.

Swensen, who could not be reached for comment, is widely credited with redefining the model for institutional investing, having overseen dramatic growth in the endowment from just over $1 billion in 1985 when he arrived at the University.

The money raised in his honor will also add to a pre-existing scholarship in Yale College in honor of Swensen, while the remaining funds will enter a pool of money to support general costs for the University.

At last week’s event, the Development Office announced a number of tributes to Swensen, including naming the Berkeley College Master’s House “Swensen House,” said O’Neill.

A Berkeley fellow, Swensen has remained involved with the residential college and close with its masters, including current Berkeley Master Marvin Chun, throughout his 28-year tenure.

Roughly 200 people attended the dinner, which the Development Office held in Commons, because their original venue choice — Berkeley College — could not accommodate all the attendees, O’Neill added.

Levin and his wife, Jane Levin, came back to New Haven for the event, as well as numerous people Swensen has mentored during his career. Richard Levin, Yale Investments Senior Director Dean Takahashi ’80 SOM ’83 and economist William Brainard GRD ’63 all made remarks on Swensen’s behalf.

After Levin announced he would retire from the presidency in an August 2012 email to the University, O’Neill said Levin organized the initiative with her as his last bit of “unfinished business.”

“David had been somebody who had done so much for Yale during [Levin’s] presidency,” O’Neill said. “He made it possible to launch so many new initiatives and strengthen the academic parts of the University.”

Swensen returned to teaching the undergraduate seminar “Investment Analysis” this semester after taking a leave of absence from teaching last September due to a cancer diagnosis. He told the News last April he planned to resume teaching, noting that his health was good and that he was working a full schedule in the Investments Office.

Swensen worked at Lehman Brothers for six years before joining the Yale Investments Office.

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