Honorary Degree Recipient John Reeder Meyer '67
B.S. Denison University; M.B.A. Harvard University
by Fleur W. Metzger
Denison University Publications Editor
During the past 13 and one-half years, Jack Meyer has served as president and CEO of Harvard Management Co. Inc., (HMC), a non-profit subsidiary of Harvard University that manages its endowment portfolio and is based in Cambridge, Mass. During that period he has grown the endowment from $5.1 billion in September 1990 to nearly $19.3 billion at the end of June 2003, giving Harvard the largest endowment of any university in the United States. Meyer justifiably has been called a gifted investment strategist and an adept manager, as well as the "Ty Cobb of funds management."
A native of Columbus, Ohio, Meyer graduated from Denison in 1967 with a Bachelor of Science degree in psychology. He continued his education at Harvard Business School, entering as one of the youngest members of his class and, according to his recollections, too intimidated to speak up in class for the first six months. He was awarded an M.B.A. in 1969, and for the following three years was a security analyst and investment officer with Brown Brothers Harriman, a private bank in New York City. From 1973 to 1979, Meyer was associated with Lionel D. Edie, an investment counseling firm in New York City, working in the research department initially and then in portfolio management beginning in 1975. He was named chief portfolio officer in 1977. He next became deputy controller of New York City, managing the city's pension funds, sinking funds and treasury funds -- about $20 billion in total -- until 1983.
In that year he was named treasurer and chief investment officer of the Rockefeller Foundation, responsible for the management of the foundation's endowment of $2.1 billion. He served in that capacity until joining HMC in 1990.
With a staff of 120, HMC manages Harvard's endowment assets, pension funds and the charitable trusts and pooled income funds generated by planned gifts. With a 12.5 percent return on its endowment investments for fiscal 2003, Harvard's gain was not only one of the highest among colleges in the United States, but also among large financial funds generally. According to Meyer, Harvard kept a diversified portfolio with about 22 percent bond (domestic, foreign and inflation-indexed), 43 percent equities (domestic, foreign, emerging markets and private) and the remainder in commodities, real estate and investments chosen for their absolute return or high yield.
The endowment provides long-term fiscal stability for student financial aid, the faculty and academic programs. Much of Meyer's success is credited to his ability to attract and retain highly talented and successful portfolio managers and staff to HMC, as well as his use of a policy portfolio benchmark structure to guide investment policy.
He and his wife Elizabeth, who is a former researcher and reporter for Time Magazine, are the parents of Justus and Halsey, both of whom are students at Harvard. Meyer's sister Gail '63 and brother Richard '71 are also graduates of Denison. Gail and her husband Greg Gibson are in the audience today.