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Endowment growth follows Notre Dame’s mission

Staff Editorial | Friday, September 21, 2007

Notre Dame is $1.4 billion richer than last year – certainly a feat. Couple that with the University’s decision not to invest in 350 companies that bishops say violate Catholic social teaching, and the accomplishment becomes even more impressive.

In the area of endowment growth, where it’s easy to think only of the margins and ratios, Notre Dame imposes its own limits – and still ranks in the top three in endowment growth.

Catholic social teaching “is ingrained in everything we do,” Chief Investment Officer Scott Malpass said Wednesday. “As a Catholic university, it’s very much consistent with our mission.”

Malpass wants Notre Dame’s endowment to break into the top 10. University President Father John Jenkins wants Notre Dame to rank with the best in both research and Ph.Ds. Both say they won’t compromise what makes Notre Dame different – its Catholic identity, its tradition of service, its emphasis on morality.

Clearly, the University didn’t need to invest in the 350 banned companies – it’s made billions without them. Still, it’s a testament to Notre Dame’s values that the man charged with managing its endowment appears exactly in line with its larger mission.

That’s not to say everything is perfect; it’s a select few that know exactly how the University handles its money. Notre Dame needs to reevaluate constantly the companies in which it invests to further what seems to be a successful practice of making economic decisions with social justice in mind.

Closing the gap on the schools with the largest endowments is an unrealistic goal. Harvard has $34.9 billion; Notre Dame won’t be there anytime soon. But Malpass expects the University’s endowment to rank 14th or 15th this year.

By all accounts, his steady hand and Notre Dame’s values make that a feasible – and ethical – goal.