Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern


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New chief investment officer named to post

The veteran investment manager of a major Chicago foundation will take the reins of Northwestern’s $3.6 billion portfolio, administrators announced Wednesday.

William McLean, the managing director for assets and investments at the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, McLean will assume the responsibilities of vice president and chief financial officer on Jan. 21. He will oversee the Office of Investment, keep track of investing options and work to increase the university’s portfolio.

McLean, 46, will replace David Wagner, who announced he would leave the position to start his own business after revamping investment strategy during nearly a decade at NU.

Eugene Sunshine, NU’s senior vice president for business and finance, called McLean a “perfect choice” for the university.

“He is extraordinarily capable and well recommended and has done similar work for the MacArthur Foundation,” Sunshine said. “He has a perfect style and temperament to work in a university environment.”

McLean, a Wilmette resident, said he is excited at the opportunity to work at NU.

“By living close to campus, I’ve been able to see close at had what the school means to alumni, faculty and students and the effect it has on the community,” McLean said.

McLean said he will continue the groundwork Wagner laid by continuing similar investment strategies.

“The general philosophy will stay the same, but nuances and differences will be seen in implementation strategies,” he said. “One of the attractions to this job was that (Wagner) put a number of things in place that are positive. This is not a situation that is broken by any means.”

During Wagner’s tenure as chief investment officer, NU’s investment options increased from two to more than 20 and the portfolio grew from about $1 billion to $3.6 billion. The university moved from dealing mainly with stocks and bonds to looking at more alternative means of investing, including venture capital, real estate and hedge funds, which tend to do well despite downturns in markets.

Calling McLean a good choice for his successor, Wagner said he doesn’t expect any major changes to NU’s investing strategy. McLean’s experience in managing the MacArthur Foundation’s portfolio, which at $4 billion is similar in size to NU’s, will help make the transition easier, Wagner said.

“The experience (McLean) had at his institution will certainly be relevant to his responsibilities here,” Wagner said.

McLean also said NU would continue its long-term approach to investing, even though the economic downturn caused the portfolio to fall about $400 million last year from its peak of $4 billion last year.

“I’m confident we can recoup our losses,” he said. “With a long-term investing approach, you want to have a portfolio that can thrive in any environment even though the market dictates change at certain times.”

Before joining the MacArthur Foundation in 1991, McLean worked as an assistant investment officer at the Duke Endowment in Charlotte, NC.

He is a 1977 graduate of Davidson College and received a masters in business administration from the University of North Carolina in 1979.

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New chief investment officer named to post