Among the largest and most notable U.S. institutional asset owners, the year 2021 meant changes in leadership. Two changes were unfortunately due to untimely deaths.
In February, David Villa, executive director and CIO of the $157.9 billion State of Wisconsin Investment Board, Madison, died at age 66, and in May, David Swenson, the chief investment officer at Yale University who helped revolutionize how college endowments are managed, died at age 67. He had led the university's $42.3 billion endowment since 1985.
At SWIB, Mr. Villa was succeeded by Edwin Denson, the board's managing director, asset and risk allocation, and at Yale, Mr. Swensen was succeeded by Matthew S.T. Mendelsohn, previously a director at Yale overseeing its venture capital portfolio.
The largest U.S. pension funds saw significant leadership changes as well. At the $321.9 billion California State Teachers' Retirement System, West Sacramento, Chief Operating Officer Cassandra Lichnock was named the new CEO, the first woman to achieve the post in its 108-year history, replacing the retiring CEO Jack Ehnes.
At the $250.8 billion Florida State Board of Administration, Tallahassee, Executive Director and CIO Ashbel "Ash" Williams Jr., retired on Sept. 30 after two separate, lengthy tenures as its top official. Lamar Taylor was named interim executive director and chief investment officer.
Theresa Whitmarsh, executive director of the $181 billion Washington State Investment Board, Olympia, announced her intention to retire on Dec. 31. She will be succeeded by Allyson Tucker, currently the board's CIO, effective Jan. 1.
At the $72 billion Pennsylvania Public School Employees' Retirement System, both Executive Director Glen R. Grell and CIO James H. Grossman Jr. will retire in 2022. The system's board at its Nov. 18 meeting approved the retirements, a move that followed six board members in June calling for Messrs. Grossman's and Grell's removal from their respective roles. The June resolution was withdrawn at the time with no reason given. PennPSERS is currently under federal investigation after the board had discovered an error in its reported investment figures.
Also, on Dec. 1, Mansco Perry III, executive director and CIO of the $127.9 billion Minnesota State Board of Investment, St. Paul, announced that he will retire in 2022.
On Dec. 9, Britt Harris, the president, CEO and CIO of the University of Texas/Texas A&M Investment Management Co., Austin, announced he would hand the CIO reins to Deputy CIO Rich Hall, effective Jan. 1. Mr. Harris will remain president and CEO of the company overseeing the university's $53.2 billion endowment.
Finally, on Dec. 13, it was announced that Alex Done, the CIO of the $266.7 billion New York City Retirement Systems, will depart on Dec. 31.
Lastly, one of the more notable leadership changes is still in process.
CalPERS, the largest U.S. pension fund, has yet to hire a new CIO following the August 2020 resignation of Yu "Ben" Meng. After a long suspension, the search resumed in July and at press time, finalist interviews were scheduled for mid-December.