RIP David Swensen

RIP David Swensen. David was a pioneer, teacher, and legend of the institutional investing world. Great institutions like Yale can and will continue to conduct research and advance humanity in part because of people like David at the helm of their endowments.

Here's why:

  • Endowments enable research: Hard research takes time and consistency. A strong endowment makes this possible, regardless of the economic cycle. Without an endowment, research funding would be unpredictable and tied to a capricious market.
  • Endowments let us focus on knowledge for the sake of knowledge: If we want to dedicate ourselves to what's true instead of what's profitable, we must be ready to accept unprofitable outcomes. While anathema to private-sector companies that are burdened to quarterly earnings, the most distant questions can often have the biggest impact to a future that we haven't yet discovered.
  • Endowments drive equality by funding scholarships for ambitious students: That means students can attend a four-year private university, regardless of their economic circumstances. Many people criticize endowments for being profitable, and I think this is very misguided. Instead of criticizing them, we should praise them for being a conduit of opportunity for those who otherwise would not have it.

With people like David at the helm, this is possible. Thank you for all you've done.

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