A new professorship has been created in the Yale economics department to honor Yale’s long-time Chief Investment Officer David Swensen.
Last week, Yale announced that economics professor Steven Berry would become the inaugural David Swensen Professor. The newly created position was established through the Swensen Initiative, a 2013 fundraising campaign that raised more than $36 million in Swensen’s honor and now supports a variety of causes, including a fund for teaching innovation and a coaching position for the women’s tennis team. Although the named professorship does not come with additional formal responsibilities for Berry or Swensen, the creation of the position marks a dual honor for two leading figures on campus.
Swensen stepped into his current role as Yale CIO in 1985, before previously working on Wall Street for six years at Lehman Brothers and Salomon Brothers. Under his management and leadership, the endowment has grown from $1.3 billion to $23.9 billion, the highest in University history.
“With this one appointment, Yale has paid tribute to two uniquely talented individuals — David Swensen, a pioneer in endowment management, and Steve Berry, one of world’s top industrial organization economists,” Massachusetts Institute of Technology finance professor Andrew Lo ’80 said. “The David Swensen Professorship will be a permanent memorial to Swensen’s indelible impact on Yale’s growth and intellectual depth, and Berry is a perfect example of this impact.”
Swensen said he is thrilled that the first occupant of the chair is Steve Berry, who he said is someone he admires for his contributions to Yale and the field of economics.
“There’s a marvelous connection between my life’s work of managing Yale’s Endowment and having an endowed fund in my name,” Swensen wrote in an email to the News.
Berry, who first came to Yale in 1988 as an assistant professor, was named the James Burrows Moffatt Professor of Economics in 1999. However, Berry said that since faculty hold at most one named professorship, he had to relinquish his former title.
Berry said there is no special application or interview process to being awarded the new role. Instead, chairs are decided by the University president and voted on by the Corporation.
He added that he is honored to be the recipient of the title since it pays tribute to a man he deeply respects.
“David Swensen has provided immensely valuable service to the University, and I am a great admirer of his work,” Berry said.
Fellow economics professor Philip Haile, who co-authored two articles with Berry since 2013, said the title is well deserved due to Berry’s intellectual contributions and his leadership roles within the University.
Berry was the chair of the Economics Department from 2004-2006 and January 2013 to June 2013, as well as serving as division director of social sciences from 2010-2013. Most recently, he chaired the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Academic Review Committee, which faced scrutiny from some faculty following the publication of its report on faculty hiring in April 2014.
The report outlined proposals for allocating faculty appointments across University divisions and departments. Although some faculty said the new system distributed resources fairly, others said the language of the document did not adequately explain how the new system would work in practice.
Economics professor Dirk Bergemann, the current chair of the department, said it is fitting that the professorship named in Swensen’s honor was in economics since Swensen completed his PhD in the department in 1980 and has taught one of the most popular seminars in the major.