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UVa goes for straight A investments

The University of Virginia's endowment fund has put itself at the cutting edge of investment from university funds, wringing out high returns by inspired market timing and bold allocations to alternative asset classes. But can it keep working the magic, especially as it is looking for new leadership?

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THOMAS JEFFERSON, THE third US president, was a powerful advocate of liberty, including freedom of the mind. One of his most enduring projects after leaving office was the University of Virginia, which opened to its first students in 1825. The university, in Charlottesville, is built around Jefferson's "Academical Village" which is crowned by the library, a building inspired by Rome's second-century temple, the Pantheon.

In step with Jefferson's vision, the university's endowment managers have pursued freedom of the mind and made inspired moves in their efforts to ensure sound and high-yielding investment of the university's funds which, among other things, provide financial aid for students.

Sustained performance Endowments are among the most cutting edge investors in the US. They were pioneers in investing significantly in hedge funds and remain big players in alternative asset classes. Their strategies are in part shaped by finance professors who want to put their theories into practice.

Under the management of the University of Virginia Investment Management Company (Uvimco),UVa's endowment has posted top performance at a time when other endowments have been hit by declining returns. However, Uvimco's long-serving CEO, Alice Handy, left at the beginning of the year and a replacement has not yet been found.

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