Endowment Grows Despite Economic Woes

Fordham Funds Increase as Endowments Reach Above Average High

Endowment Grows Despite Economic Woes


Since the end of the Great Recession, the economy has picked up over the past year and a half, which has been reflected in an increase in college endowments. Recently, the National Association of College and University Business Officers and Commonfund released a study that found college endowments across the U.S. increased by 19.2 percent during the 2011 fiscal year. According to Bob Steves, Fordham University associate treasurer, Fordham’s endowment increase was greater.

Steves said the University invests its endowments and similar funds in a larger pool of investments. On June 30, at the end of the fiscal year, the market value of Fordham’s pool was approximately $462.1 million. In comparison, the Huffington Post reported that Harvard University had the largest U.S. university endowment at $31.7 billion. Pellissippi State Community College had the smallest endowment at $5.7 million.

The term endowment is used fairly loosely. According to Steves, “the endowment is a collection of various funds collected and invested by the university and influenced by the donor.” This means that the endowment is an umbrella term for all the money from donors as well as various resources. Donors usually give because they value the education their university provided them with and wish to give back.

On June 30, 2011, Fordham’s return on investments was a gross profit of approximately 23.4 percent, which is above the national average. A return on investment calculates the efficiency of an investment. The growing number of gifts and resources helps Fordham’s endowment to increase. Some donors give money specifically for scholarships or to endow department chairs. Endowment funds are also used for general operations that allow Fordham to function on a day-to-day basis.

It is the Finance and Investment Committee’s responsibility to diversify investments. Investing in multiple assets diversifies investments. Using a spending formula, the Board of Trustees is able to determine how much Fordham is allowed to spend.

Endowments are usually given as gifts from alumni. Past alumni donors include stock investor Mario Gabelli, CBA ’65, who donated $25 million in September of 2010, and actor Denzel Washington, FCLC ’77, who donated $2 million in October of last year. Fordham named the Gabelli School of Business after the former.

In 2011, Washington appointed Phylicia Rashād, known for her role as Claire Huxtable on the NBC sitcom “The Bill Cosby Show,” as Fordham’s first chair professor in the theatre department. Washington’s donation helped pay for a professor that Fordham would not have otherwise been able to afford. Dana Walsh, FCLC ’13 and a student of Rashād, said, “The class gave us a personal connection with our alumnus…It felt like a little piece of Denzel.”

She added, “In theatre, most of your learning comes from your experience…and we were able to get a little piece of the experience she had.”

Steves said, “in ’08 and ’09 [Fordham] took some losses, but in general there has been a sustained increase in investment activity and contributions.”