Origins of Bowdoin Endowment

A thousand dollars and a thousand acres is all it took to endow a school 225 years ago.

Bowdoin’s endowment is as old as the College itself. Shortly after Bowdoin received its charter in 1794, James Bowdoin III gifted the college $1,000 and 1,000 acres of land and later endowed a professorship in mathematics or natural and experimental philosophy. In 1802, his wife, Sarah Bowdoin, endowed a professorship in modern languages.

Several centuries later, the endowment has become crucial to Bowdoin’s finances. For this academic year, returns from the endowment made up roughly 38.8 percent of the funds available for the operating budget.

Bowdoin has had particularly strong endowment growth over the last decade. It made headlines last fall as one of the best performers among any college or university in the United States, with a 15.7 percent rate of return. As of June 30, 2018, the endowment was valued at $1.63 billion.

How does Bowdoin get its money?, The Bowdoin Orient

Today the endowment portfolio is made up of more than land and cash.

Chief Investment Officer Paula Volent identified private equity portfolios as a key driver of Bowdoin’s strong returns. According to Volent, in recent years, the College’s investment managers have turned their focus toward growing industries such as e-commerce and emerging markets such as China. Investments are selected at the discretion of managers.

“We’re trying to keep ahead of the destruction of old industries with new technologies,” Volent said in a phone interview with the Orient.

Endowment returns, nearly double national median, lead all reported colleges, The Bowdoin Orient

One of two lions standing guard at the entrance of the Bowdoin Art Museum.
Twitter @BowdoinMuseum

Post by Marcelino Pantoja