MHC endowment passes $700 million mark.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014 - 8:45am

With the help of generous gifts and strategic investment management, the Mount Holyoke College endowment has grown to more than $717 million for the first time.

Shannon Gurek, vice president for finance and administration, attributed the milestone to the continued generosity of alumnae and other donors—who contributed $13 million to the endowment in the last fiscal year—and the knowledge and commitment of the Investment Committee members who oversee the investment of the endowment 

“Fiscal strength is incredibly important to ensuring the long-term success of Mount Holyoke,” said MHC trustee Betsy Palmer ’76, chair of the College’s Investment Committee. About 25 percent of each year’s operating expenses is covered by income from the endowment, funding such priorities as student scholarships, faculty compensation, and maintenance and improvements to buildings and grounds.

Supporting students.

Growth in the endowment is vital to sustaining the excellence of Mount Holyoke’s academic programs and attracting outstanding students such as Hannah Leffingwell. The senior from Centennial, Colorado, who has been in contact with alumnae who support student scholarships like hers, said she is grateful for the opportunities they provide.

“I am reminded that the education I receive here is not contained within these gates, nor within my four short years here,” Leffingwell said. “Seeing the generosity of Mount Holyoke alumnae in action has allowed me to reimagine what it means to be educated.”

In addition to scholarships, MHC’s endowment supports research opportunities for students and faculty; lab, library, and other facilities and equipment; student services; and cocurricular programs, prizes, and awards.

Good money management is still key.

The College’s endowment is managed by a volunteer Investment Committee, most of whose members are alumnae, and a consulting group, chair Betsy Palmer explained. “The members have many years of experience in the investment business. We also work closely with our consultant, Cambridge Associates, which provides excellent advice on all aspects of managing the portfolio. And we have a very strong internal team at MHC that oversees all operational aspects of the endowment.”

The money managers have navigated global financial challenges through a broadly diversified investment strategy that tries “to benefit from good returns among various asset classes but also to dampen volatility of the overall portfolio to provide a steady stream of income to the College,” according to Palmer.

The approach is working. As a 2013 article in Institutional Investor noted, Mount Holyoke’s endowment has outperformed “megaendowments” at other schools, including Ivy League institutions, over the past few years.

Continued growth is also crucial.

Reaching an all-time high is something to celebrate. But at $717 million, Mount Holyoke’s endowment is still relatively small compared to those at similar institutions. And continual replenishment of the endowment through gifts is crucial, since a healthy endowment lets the College plan confidently for the future.

—By Emily Harrison Weir