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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Brandeis hires new CIO to manage endowment

Published: March 16, 2007
Section: News

This January, Brandeis hired Deborah Kuenstner as its new Chief Investment Officer and Vice President for Investment Management in order to help manage the universitys increasingly large endowment. The institution of the management of the endowment as a job for a single individual is a relatively new step for the university.

For a long time the endowment was overseen by someone who had the endowment as one of many responsibilities, said Kuenstner. This individual was Jeff Solomon, who did have responsibility solely for the endowment toward the end of his time at Brandeis.

Two years ago, we reorganized Jeff Solomons job, explained Peter French, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer. His job portfolio was defined to specifically focus on the endowment.

Solomon departed from Brandeis approximately a year and a half ago. Between that time and the time of her hiring, many of the tasks she now performs were filled by Brandeis employees who performed the duties temporarily, Kuenstner explained.

Brandeis endowment has grown substantially in recent years. When I came to Brandeis [ten years ago], the value was about 200 million dollars. It has grown to over half a billion, said French. Kuenstner stated that the value of the endowment has increased by approximately 9.8 percent per year on average since Jehuda Reinharz became university president.

Because of this increase in value, the endowment has become more complex and more sophisticated in terms of investment strategies, French said. It is these investment strategies that Kuenstner will oversee, in conjunction with the Trustee Investment Committee.

Kuenstner stated that previous to her hiring, we relied on an outside consultant for a lot of analysis. More of that will get done in house. Sometimes an investment opportunity comes along quickly.

Kuenstners previous jobs include acting as the Chief Investment Officer at Putnam Investments, Senior Portfolio Manager for DuPont Pension Fund, and Managing Director of Research for Fidelity Management and Research Company.
Brandeis is a great place, she said. Its exciting for me to be here.