Lehigh University
Lehigh University


Lehighs endowment considered among nations best managed

Peter M. Gilbert

Lehigh has been nominated by the editorial team of Institutional Investor’s Foundation & Endowment Money Management (FEMM) as a finalist for its Large Endowment of the Year award, making it one of the “best-run nonprofits in performance and investment decisions,” according to FEMM.

Finalists were selected based on their innovation, market impact, uniqueness of approach, as well as other criteria established by the editors.

The industry nomination comes at a precarious time for the U.S. economy and for university budgeting. College endowments fell an average of 23 percent last year, the biggest fall since the mid-1970s, according to industry reports.

Led by Peter M. Gilbert, Lehigh’s chief investment officer, the University overhauled its asset allocation last year in an effort to protect capital in a down market while building the portfolio for future growth. To achieve that goal, Gilbert and his team have been particularly focused on the process of developing the University’s alternative investments by increasing private equity from 6% to 15%; quadrupling real estate holdings to eight percent; more than doubling emerging markets exposure to seven percent; and hedge funds from about ten to over 15 percent.

As a result, Lehigh finished the calendar year 2008 in the top quartile among nonprofit organizations, according to FEMM. Good planning—and “some luck,” Gilbert says—are the reasons behind the success. Gilbert said the university has been able to “build out our investment portfolio in a way that had not been possible previously. We've been fortunate that we've had the opportunity to access some very good funds that had not been open to new investor until recently. We've been much more active in the market during this period of time.”

FEMM selects nominees based in large-part on the market intelligence that they have gathered during the prior year in the course of covering their industry sector and publishing their newsletter. Nominees, including Lehigh in the “best-run nonprofit in performance and investment decisions” category, will find out on September 21, 2009, if they have won.

Accolades are nothing new for Gilbert, who has been recognized with the Lifetime Achievement Award by Money Management Letter in 2007; the Excellence in Investment Management Award by Institutional Investor in 2005; The Richard L. Stoddard Award by the National Association of State Investment Officers in 2004; and the CIO of the Year Award by the Institute for Fiduciary Education in 1997.

Earlier this year, Lehigh was a named winner of the 2009 Alties Institutional Investor/Endowment award sponsored by PLANSPONSOR magazine. The awards acknowledge excellence in alternative investment expertise.

--Jennifer Tucker

Posted on Monday, July 13, 2009

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