It was 2009. The University of Chicago endowment—like many funds at the time—had just suffered the worst single-year loss in its history, plummeting in value from $6.5 billion to under $5 billion. The
university’s CIO of four years, Peter Stein, had announced his intention to step down that summer. If there
was ever a time for a change, this was it.
Enter Mark Schmid.
The t wo-time corporate pension chief had already spent a dozen years as a chief investment officer—
first leading Chrysler’s then-$30 billion in defined benefit and defined contribution plans, then running
Boeing’s enormous pension as it grew to more than $80 billion. But in 2009, he was new to the endowment world.
“When I took the job, somebody said the phrase ‘higher ed’,” Schmid recalls over lunch at U. Chicago’s
Quadrangle Club, chuckling to himself. “I didn’t know what ‘higher ed’ was.”
It is the last Monday of October, and the leaves outside the faculty club’s windows are gleaming copper
and gold in the autumn sunshine. The Chicago Cubs are just two games away from clenching their first
World Series win in 108 years, and even at the University of Chicago’s Hyde Park campus—placed firmly
in White Sox territory—the excitement is palpable.
Just like that summer of 2009, it is a time for change: changing seasons, changing luck in baseball,
and—as the US presidential elections draw to a close after nearly two years of campaigning—a changing
political climate. American investors are speculating that another interest rate hike would finally come in
December (Schmid, emphatically: “Raise them!”); Europeans are guessing at the consequences of Britain’s
summer decision to exit the European Union.
But amid all of the uncertainty, Schmid is cool, calm, and collected. After 14 positions at four employers
across two countries, he’s not afraid of change.
THE CIO INDUSTRY
From Chrysler to Boeing to the University of
Chicago, Schmid has brought innovative thinking
and a focus on talent to every fund he’s led. And
after more than two decades, he’s not done yet.
LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT HONOREE