March 29, 2004

Faculty Council learns about endowment management

By Michael Terrazas

Oxford's Mike Rogers, recently voted chair-elect for 2004-05, opened the March 23 Faculty Council meeting in 400 Administration with a proposed resolution from the ad hoc committee he chairs that is examining the University's leave policies.

Of particular interest to the committee, Rogers said, are leaves between sabbaticals. Several peer institutions (Cornell, Dartmouth, Duke, Stanford, Yale) offer such leaves with full pay (though with differing requirements for eligibility). With the goal of making Emory a "destination university," Rogers said amending Emory's leave policies to more closely match policies like these should be considered seriously during the strategic planning process.

The committee's resolution urged exactly that. Quoting the Research at Emory report that called for ensuring faculty "adequate time for scholarly reflection," the resolution recommended that the president and administration work with Faculty Council to develop "appropriate, competitive scholarly leave programs." The resolution passed unanimously.

Next up was a report from Mary Cahill, chief investment officer for the Emory Investment Management Office. Cahill distributed copies of the 2003 Endowment Annual Report (the first such report ever produced, she said), which detailed management strategies and performance of Emory's endowment through fiscal 2003. The report was published to increase transparency in the University's financial operations, to clear up confusion about endowment management within the Emory community and to show to potential donors, Cahill said.

Cahill walked council members through a presentation on endowment performance during FY03, which ended Aug. 31. At that time, Emory's total endowment holdings stood at roughly $3.85 billion (the current figure, she said, is closer to $4.5 billion), broken down into three areas: the investment manager pool, which Cahill's office actively manages ($2.24 billion); the gifted securities pool, which is almost exclusively stock in the Coca-Cola Co. ($910 million); and trusts and other investments ($700 million).

Emory's endowment always has been tied closely to Coke stock; Cahill said for many years it accounted for some 80 percent of total holdings. Then for a comparable period of time the number held at 60 percent. Currently just under 25 percent of the University's endowment is invested in Coca-Cola, and that number dropped recently from 30 percent. This is part of a conscious effort to diversify Emory's portfolio, though Cahill added the University has no plans to divest itself further of Coke holdings.

Active endowment management is a relatively new practice at Emory; Cahill's office is only a few years old. Due to a drop in Coke performance in FY03, the University's endowment did not return as much as other peer institutions', but Cahill added that Emory's endowment performance topped the country in FY02. As the portfolio diversifies and the University's management strategy "matures," she said she expects income to level off and hold steady at a rate (8-10 percent) that best mixes risk and return.

To close the meeting, President Jim Wagner briefed the council on a recent site visit by a team that measured the service and efficiency of Emory's efforts in information technology (IT). The three-person team from other universities identified several strengths and weaknesses and made a series of recommendations.

Among the strengths: a high level of administration support; high number of IT staff; good network reliability; and the Cox Hall Computing Center. Some of the weaknesses: too-slow adoption of wireless networks; too-high risk in data security and recovery; reliance on an antiquated system in LearnLink; and lack of a customer-oriented approach, especially in Emory College.

The team's recommendations were both specific (establishment of a "technology transformation fund" and integration of data, voice and video on a single network) and broad (reuniting the Information Technology Division and Network Communications under a single umbrella). Wagner said he will discuss the group's findings widely across campus before making any decisions.

The next Faculty Council meeting will be held April 20 at 3:15 p.m. in 400 Administration.


If you have a question or concern for Faculty Council, e-mail chair John Snarey at