By Nick DiIorio
Assistant News Editor
You may be astounded when first hearing that the Denison University endowment fund has a value approaching one billion dollars.
The base of Denison’s 740 million dollar endowment comes from donations by alumni, faculty, and friends of the university. However, the bulk of the fund’s growth over the past few decades is primarily due to the accrued interest earned on equity investments.
The fund’s current Chief Investment Officer, Adele Gorrilla, joined Denison in October 2008 during the rampant chaos of the national financial crisis.
At the time, the management of the endowment was transitioning to a new in-house team upon the creation of a specifically-tailored investment office. This on-campus team of financial gurus is responsible for selecting the individual investments within the asset allocation framework established by the Investment Committee, a subset of the Board of Trustees.
Referring to the selection of investments, Gorrilla states “we look for the best risk-adjusted returns to achieve the goal of covering the endowment’s spending rate.”
She would not expand any further on the specific nature of the types of investments her office engages in.
While this may be viewed as a relatively conservative strategy, Denison has consistently outpaced its peers by realizing annual rates of return around 4 percent over the past five years.
This standard of achievement has even earned national recognition from the likes of Institutional Investor magazine, which honored Gorilla as its Small Endowment Manager of the Year earlier this spring.
Recognizing the prestigiousness of the award President Weinberg remarked, “The important work of Adele and her team is producing investment results that allow us to change the lives of our amazing Denison students.”
One critical way in which the endowment fund impacts students is through the university’s financial aid program, which has provided over $50 million in tuition assistance to current and former students.
As Vice President of Finance and Management Seth Patton notes, “being able to afford the cost of a college education is one of the biggest challenges facing students and their families.” The vast resources accumulated in the endowment fund have helped alleviate some of the financial burden that results from Denison’s ‘high-touch’ educational model.
The endowment also supports the financing of university infrastructure improvements, which range from erecting new student housing to rehabilitating classroom facilities.
Gorrilla noted that “the endowment transfers about $30 million per year to help fund 30 percent of the operating budget.” This helps to ensure that the financial obligations of Denison University are met and that students are the primary beneficiaries of this investment.