PA Seeks Student Input On Investing Endowment

On April 20, Andover’s Investment Office will hold the first of what will become an annual student forum on issues surrounding the Academy’s endowment. These forums are part of Phillips Academy’s ongoing initiative to increase transparency by discussing the endowment with alumni, students, and parents. While transparency has always been a priority, last year’s addition of the Investment Office to the Andover system enabled a more focused concentration on transparency. The Investment Office will also begin releasing an annual report, the first of which will become available next week. This concept of transparency, or open communication, is not new, according to Chief Investment Officer Amy Falls ’82. Falls stated, “This is not a new idea…this concept of being open to interested people is used by corporations.” Communication has been an explicit goal of the Investment Office since its creation, according to Ms. Falls. “This is an important step for the institution,” Falls added, referring to the relatively new Investment Office. Several other boarding schools around the country have implemented equivalent offices. Some goals of the Investment Office are to inform the community of the issues associated with endowment and gain ideas from Andover students and alumni. Eric Best ’66, who will head the student forum this April, is “very good at creating dialogue,” according to Ms. Falls. She continued, “This forum will give us interesting ideas. Some may be way out there. We are open to ideas that will help us succeed.” She went on to say that Phillips Academy is home to “unique intellectual capital” that the Investment Office wants to take advantage of. “The idea is that…you have to have a long-term vision about what the world will look like in ten or twenty years and we’re hoping to get a group of students together…because the more creatively you think about the future— what matters, what areas of the world will grow and be important in the future— the better you can invest the resources of the Academy. So we like to take insight from as many…sources as possible,” said Falls. According to Mr. Best, “The idea [of this forum] is to think about what’s going on outside and applying scenario thinking to think about the future.” He added, “Students are a source of intelligence. They are distributed intelligence that adds a dimension of imagination. We can get important ideas from anyone, anywhere and anytime. We can inherit these ideas and create the future…” President of the Board of Trustees Oscar Tang ’56 said, “The other side is that it might be interesting for students to understand the perspective of the Academy and the endowment but also the limitations that exist because of it. Maybe something specifically positive will come out of it in terms of how the endowment is managed, but at least it will be an educational experience both ways.” This student forum will inform students on the Academy’s perspective on endowment. The forum will be open to any student interested in economics or the endowment. Several students agree that a forum for students is important. However, some are concerned about whether their opinions will really make a difference. Some students also question the maturity of the ideas fellow students may bring up when talking about the uses of endowment. Jean Fang ’09 said, “I think that it is an interesting forum idea, and nice that they consider our input. However, it’s hard to say how students will really react and care, because a large majority will probably think something along the lines of ‘If they implement my ideas after I’m gone, why does it matter,’ not to mention that some students will probably bring up wasteful and superfluous ideas about how to use the endowment.” Several other students brought up the points Fang mentioned. Elizabeth Patino ’09 said, “This forum is important, but will it really make a difference?” Mr. Tang had positive expectations for the upcoming forum. He said, “I think that it will be interesting to have this…type of discussion with students. I think that you never know what ideas will come out of that and I think…the whole morality issue of investing could be a discussion topic, but also young people seem to be more in touch with certain trends and so forth and that could be very valuable.” In the past, Phillips Academy has benefited from the help of alumni who are exerts in different areas of finance. Members of the Investment Office plan to meet with Phillips Academy alumni often. On May 16 there will be a meeting in New York, and a small meeting in London was recently held. The Investment Office also plans to communicate with parents. Increased communication with alumni, students, and parents is related to the idea of transparency. Tang stated, “The endowment is a very critical asset for the Academy so we are interested in having a dialogue with different constituencies of the Academy.” The goals of these meetings with alumni and students are to inform, explain, and gather ideas. Amy Falls said that there are two types of meetings with alumni: the first is to inform them about endowment management and the second meeting, to take place in April or May, will be to solicit input. The Investment Office tries to recruit alumni with investment experience. This year’s endowment report will be the first of its kind, focusing solely on issues regarding Phillips Academy’s endowment.