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Where’s the Geisel Bump?

Geisel Logo.jpgThe endowment rose in value this year from $3.49 billion to $3.73 billion — a fine increase*, but certainly not one that reflects the value of Dr. Seuss’ estate. Word has it that when Audrey Geisel passes from this mortal coil, Ted’s will stipulates that The Cat in the Hat, Horton, and the rest of the mighty empire will pass to the College.

But then why was Dartmouth Medical School renamed Geisel School of Medicine this past year, when no assets changed hands? Sure, you could surmise that the administration graciously chose to announce the name change when Mrs. Geisel was able to enjoy it. Or, rather, you might ask why it occurred that the precipitous announcement on April 4 came so close on the heels of Rolling Stone Magazine’s March 28 profile of hazing rites at SAE.

I’d go with the latter supposition. The Trustees knew well in advance that RS was working on a story that would be deeply damaging to the College. Distraction was the best way to combat the hit to Dartmouth’s reputation. The strategy: rush forward the re-naming of DMS, even though there was no actual reason for the change to be made then and there.

In any event, Ted’s estate could be worth ten figures, which would be a sweet gift, perhaps the largest in the history of American higher education. When the donation actually happens one day in the future, it will give the endowment a nice bump. Thanks Dr. Seuss!

* Needless to say, you will have done the math in your head and seen that this growth is but a 6.88% increase, even though Dartmouth’s money managers earned a 12.10% return on our investments in Fiscal 2013. Why the difference? The endowment grows by the return that it receives on investments, plus the amount of money that the College takes in via fundraising, minus the amount that it draws down from the endowment for its operations. Over the last decade or so, the College has consistently taken more from the endowment than its Ivy peers, which explains why we have had the worst endowment growth in the Ivies since 2000, even though we had the best growth in the 1990-2000 period. If you have to ask where the money has gone, you haven’t been reading this site with any care. Here’s a hint.

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