Fifty-five years ago, University trustee Douglas Warner ’68 was a Yale first year who was overwhelmed by the best and brightest among his peers. But much changed for the once shy first year, who later became chair and CEO of J.P. Morgan Chase & Co.
Now, Warner — an alumnus of Morse College who goes by ‘Sandy’ — is one of Yale’s most successful and generous alumni. In 1995, he became J.P. Morgan’s youngest CEO and remained in the position until the company merged with Chase Manhattan Bank in 2000. Warner has also served on the board of four companies, including General Electric Co., Anheuser-Busc, Motorola Inc. and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.
But even with his busy schedule, Warner says he returns back to New Haven around 20 times a year to attend meetings held by the Yale Corporation and the Corporation’s Investment Committee. An avid fan of Yale Athletics, Warner also frequents Yale football, basketball and hockey games. Last month, he flew from Florida to attend the Yale men’s basketball games against Princeton and Harvard during Ivy Madness.
University administrators interviewed by the News praised Warner’s loyalty to his alma mater and his contributions to University governance.
“I admire and value Sandy for his thoughtful and selfless dedication to Yale,” University President Peter Salovey said in a statement to the News. “He brings a depth and breadth of experience as a leader in both the nonprofit and for-profit sectors. He understands the extraordinary importance of the role of our trustees in ensuring that Yale will provide outstanding educational opportunities for students today and in the future.”
The Corporation’s senior trustee Catharine Bond Hill GRD ’85 agreed that Warner “brings all kinds of expertise to the Corporation, having run a large and complex organization.”
Warner, entering his 12th and final year on the Corporation, is one of the longest sitting trustees at Yale. Even before he was named a successor trustee in 2008, Warner was a nontrustee member of two Corporation committees — the School of Medicine Ad Hoc Committee between 2001 and 2007 and the Investment Committee beginning in 2001. In 2008, Warner was named the chairman of the Investment Committee, which oversees the University’s endowment, and has continued to serve on the committee since his initial appointment.
In a statement to the News, the University’s Chief Investment Officer David Swensen said Warner has consistently challenged the Investments Office staff and committee members to bring their best efforts to the table.
In the 17 years of Warner’s involvement, the University endowment has had a return rate of 10.4 percent each year and has grown from $10.7 billion to $29.4 billion, Swensen explained. He added that Warner’s “steady hand was invaluable” during the 2008 financial crisis, which hit full force when Warner assumed his current post as the committee’s chairman. While many investors rushed to reduce risk in the face of tumultuous markets, Warner supported Yale’s long-term, equity-oriented strategy and set the stage for a rebound in Endowment performance in the past decade, Swensen explained.
“Strong and enlightened governance plays a critical role in successful institutional asset management,” Swensen said. “Through his unparalleled leadership, Sandy Warner dramatically increased Yale’s strength and excellence.”
In an interview with the News, Warner emphasized that he has enjoyed working closely with Swensen, whom he admires enormously. Like Swensen, navigating the challenges of the global market was a big part of his job at J.P. Morgan, Warner said.
He added that his ability to effectively navigate tumultuous moments and lead a company comes from his experience on four corporate boards and his experience as CEO of J.P. Morgan, all of which “were traumatized” by controversy during his tenures.
According to Warner, Anheuser-Busch had “an unfriendly takeover by a company called Inbev,” and Motorola suffered from departures of chief executives during his time on board. Meanwhile, controversies have riled General Electric, with its stock value decreasing over the years, and last fall, disputes around conflict of interest policies rattled Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.
“Fortunately, I was well prepared by my years of running J.P. Morgan, which is a large, complicated, global business,” Warner said. “The lessons from my board experiences are several. One is the role of the board itself. … The best boards stay focused on selecting the best people to run the business, approve strategy and … calibrate how much risk to take. Yale is no exception. … In the case of Yale, the President, the Provost and their teams run the place. We, in almost every case, rely on their recommendations, which we then discuss and debate, and eventually decide whether to approve them or not.”
Warner added that because he likely spent more years in boardrooms than anyone else on the Corporation, he knows whether a board is performing well. But Warner, who has now become a giant in the world of finance and corporate management, pursued a different passion for much of his Yale career.
According to Warner, he dreamed of going to a medical school during his early years at Yale College and spent summers working at hospitals. But Warner’s father advised him to explore other interests, and Warner, who had already enjoyed economics classes, worked at J.P. Morgan in the summer of 1967 before his senior year.
“I loved my summer at J.P. Morgan and developed a passion for the institution and the nature of its business,” Warner said. “I liked the fact that we were bankers exclusively to the world’s largest corporations, institutions and high net worth individuals. … I thought it would be a great training to serve the most sophisticated clients in the world and signed up full time in July 1968.”
Warner added that his interests came full circle when he joined the board of the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in 1990. He was honored to “[get] back into medicine in a very major way,” rekindling his passion for science from his undergraduate years, Warner said.
“Yale was for me — like for most of the students — extremely formative in my character and long-term interests,” Warner said. “From your 18th to 22nd birthday, one begins to think for oneself … and independently develop conclusions on one’s own. I remember that happening to me during my early years at Yale.”
There are 16 members on the Corporation.
Serena Cho | firstname.lastname@example.org