Vivek Suri

Chief Investment Officer and captain of Yale’s $27.2 billion endowment, David Swensen, contributes to the University in more ways than one. In addition to bringing home handsome endowment returns, Swensen teaches a popular senior seminar on investments analysis, and occasionally invites seniors to taste wine sourced from his own cellar. Most recently, he addressed student queries about investments, among other issues, in an off-the-record Morse College Tea on Tuesday afternoon.

The event — which was closed to the press because Swensen wished to “talk candidly,” according to Head of Morse Catherine Panter-Brick — saw a full house of about 70 students. Toward the end, the talk broke off into an informal discussion between Swensen and students that well exceeded it’s scheduled duration. Student attendees interviewed by the News after the event said they were surprised to learn that Yale takes substantial measures to ensure it does not engage in “dubious” investments such as subprime loans.

“I kind of had a one-dimensional view of him or the investment office — [that they are] very interested in returns,” said Cameron Stanish ’19, who attended the talk. “It was very good to see that he’s nuanced in his perspective.”

Stanish added that he was struck by Swensen’s criticisms of Wall Street, especially given the investment guru’s long history in the world of private equity. According to Stanish, Swensen also commented on how American corporations tend to heavily prioritize shareholders’ interests, while companies in many other countries do not.

Panter-Brick, who hosted the talk, said the most memorable part of the talk was Swensen’s compelling suggestion to students to find a mission in life.

“My mission is to be head of college,” Panter-Brick said. “His mission is to make Yale grow and sustain its mission.”

Rohan Agarwal ’21, who came to the talk because he hopes to work in finance, described Swensen as “an outstanding man” who is immersed in his work but also spends a substantial amount of time with his family.

In 2015, Swensen discussed integrity in finance with Greenwich Associates founder Charles Ellis ’59 at an event in Jonathan Edwards College.

But college teas are not the only way Swensen engages students.

For the past three years, Swensen, a wine aficionado, has taken it upon himself to introduce seniors at Morse College to the art of wine tasting. According to Panter-Brick, the red and white wines Swensen has brought to the sessions come from his own cellar.

“His heart is into education and being with young people,” Panter-Brick said.

The talk took place at Morse’s College House and featured music and macarons.

Jingyi Cui |