Yale University’s chief investment officer, David Swensen, died Wednesday at the age of 67.
Swensen, who was diagnosed with cancer in 2012, is recognized as a pioneer in investing and endowment management. Several other wealthy universities hired talent from his Yale investment office to manage their own endowments, and a 2015 Wall Street Journal analysis found that Swensen or one of his protégés controlled $1 of every $6 in U.S. higher education endowments.
Under Swensen, Yale followed what came to be known as the Yale model -- an investing strategy that reduced focus on stocks and especially bonds in favor of a diversified portfolio including alternative investments like hedge funds and real estate. The Wall Street Journal credited the model with helping to reshape the investment world, shifting emphasis from public markets to venture capital and private equity.
“David’s ideas reverberated beyond Yale as he revolutionized the landscape of institutional investing,” wrote Yale’s president, Peter Salovey, in a letter announcing Swensen’s death. “His approach, which has become known as the ‘Yale Model,’ is now the standard for many university and foundation endowments. A natural teacher, he prepared a generation of institutional investors who have gone on to lead investment offices at other colleges and universities, further extending the scope of David’s influence.”
Swensen started at Yale in 1985. That year, the university’s endowment was valued at $1.3 billion, making it the fourth largest in the country, according to data from the National Association of College and University Business Officers. The university’s endowment was worth $31.2 billion in 2020, when it was the third largest in the country.