Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Great Depression at Yale

Yale's highly-touted investment whiz, David Swensen, recorded worse-than-average losses for the university's endowment last year. Too much messing with hedge funds and alternative assets? Maybe. But during the Great Depression, a conservative investment stance didn't keep Yale's endowment out of trouble.

Here's a snippet from Gaddis Smith's feature story on Yale during the Great Depression in the Yale Alumni Magazine:
Although the university had avoided common stocks and kept most of the Yale endowment in bonds, income from the endowment declined by 21 percent. Gifts to the alumni fund, which had exceeded $1 million for the first time in 1926-27, dropped 85 percent to $142,732 in 1934-35. Not until 1950-51 would gifts be above $1 million again.
Smith's article is worth reading for the feel one gets of the divide between the haves and the have nots during the Depression. The dislike – nay, hatred – that a good number of the haves harbored for FDR can hardly be overstated. According to my memories from toddler days, it easily equalled the venom that "birthers" and others direct at our current President.

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