NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) — Yale University's chief investment officer, who has overseen the dramatic growth of the Ivy League school's endowment to $19.4 billion, is undergoing treatment for cancer, university officials said Thursday.
Yale officials say David Swensen is taking a temporary leave from his teaching duties. Yale says he continues to direct the work of Yale's Investments Office in close collaboration with Senior Director Dean Takahashi.
Yale said the illness is a private matter and will not offer further comment while Swensen focuses on his treatment and recovery.
Swensen has managed the endowment since 1985, when it was valued at about $1.3 billion.
The endowment was valued at $19.4 billion as of June 30, 2011, earning a return of nearly 22 percent from the prior year. Yale's endowment, second among universities behind Harvard University, has increased by more than $16 billion over 20 years and achieved an average annual return of 14.2 percent, Yale officials said.
The endowment is still below its 2008 high of $22.8 billion before it was hit hard by the severe recession.
Swensen's illness comes as Yale President Richard Levin announced last month he would step down at the end of the academic year after two decades leading the Ivy League university.
The endowment allows Yale to hold down costs to students by providing generous financial aid.
Swensen, who was named in 2009 by President Barack Obama to the Economic Recovery Advisory Board, is considered a pioneer by expanding the traditional focus on stocks and bonds and diversifying into alternative investments as well, such as private equity firms, hedge funds, venture capital and real estate.
"He is regarded as one of the thought leaders in the endowment industry for the last over 25 years," said John Griswold, executive director of Commonfund Institute, an investment manager for nonprofit and education organizations. "He's been an absolute stalwart in building the endowment."
Swensen's book, "Pioneering Portfolio Management: An Unconventional Approach to Institutional Investment," is regarded as one of the best books on endowment management, Griswold said. Many managers have tried to emulate Yale's success, he said.
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