Reviews and Articles written by William Noll
March 5, 2012
Guest Commentary: Buzzwords that really resonate

by William Nolls

Naples Daily News

I attended an event sponsored by the Harvard Club of Naples as a guest. I came away with a more learned vocabulary and a deeper respect of an institution that enjoys almost four centuries of existence in our country.

Indicators. Improved performance. Alpha generation. Unique hybrid models. Optimum mix. Policy portfolios. Key drivers. Private equity secondaries. Global view. Diversity. Leverage. Basis points. Internal/external management. Early entries.

Goodness. A veritable buffet of financial buzzwords that was as sweet as the special red velvet cake baked to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the local club and the 375th year of the university.

A packed house of alums and a few guests at the Pelican Bay Club listened in revered silence to Jane Mendillo, president and CEO of the Harvard Management Co., which oversees Harvard's $32 billion endowment portfolio - the largest in the land.

Mendillo gave a passionate and virtuoso performance on the nature of this endowment's critical mass. I viewed the presentation as an awesome look into the heart and soul of what accounts for over one-third of the university's total annual operating budget.

Being a professional musician, I am never tempted to think in terms of billions, unless it is the number of notes you have to learn to play during a lifetime. There's not even a calculator in my home that will accept an entry of even 1 billion, let alone several.

The endowment has averaged about a 13 percent return over the past 20 years. I found an online calculator that helped me discern that $32 billion is able to spin off over $1 million a day. Billions of stars and light-years are tough to count. It seems that tangible billions of dollars are easier.

I admire the genuine care that the portfolio enjoys. What I admire even more are the fruits of the investments that are ultimately made for the betterment of humanity. It seems that disciplined diversity is the key to financial growth and success.

The intense focus on individual education and investing in developmental research is the stuff of which historical eras were created. This unique support of Harvard's future and long-term horizon is totally reflected in the spirit of its alums. Notably, this effort is personified in Southwest Florida through the local advocacy of the Harvard Club of Naples.

The incoming president, William Humenuk, and the outgoing president, Glenn Haughie, both confirmed the activism of the local chapter's supportive involvement in the many educational opportunities afforded young students in Collier County.

In addition, Naples Mayor John Sorey, also a Harvard Club member, spoke of the vigorous internships available to present Harvard students and newly accepted high school seniors. These internships are an integral part of the disciplined diversity of the Harvard student body. The enriching summer positions are available in city government, medicine and other notable nonprofit organizations throughout Collier County, such as the Naples Botanical Garden.

Frank Klapperich, the regional director of the Southwest Florida clubs, and Robert Hicks, longtime president of the club in Lee County, spoke of the many Harvard students who have been developed throughout the decades in both counties through the efforts of the local chapters.

The ideal that relentlessly chimed the hour was diversity. Sure, a diversified portfolio is an old saw. But Harvard's diversified portfolio exists to support a clearly diverse student body and faculty. This is a great model for a successful long-term philosophy, especially if the chime is accompanied by discipline. Think Facebook, anyone?

Back in the day, most college campuses were viewed as total bastions to a liberal ideology. Not so today. Our country is a diverse patchwork quilt that is very much reflected in our contemporary quads.

The presidential election just may prove it to the nth degree. Assum that Mitt Romney will end up being the Republican nominee. President Barack Obama will face him in the election. Diverse and disciplined to the alpha-max. Both hail from the Harvard campus.

So ...

Improved performance (in government). Alpha generation (of productivity). Unique hybrid models (of management). Optimum mix (of a diversified economy). Key drivers (of the nation's health and wealth). Global views (that protect universal interest). Diversity (key). Discipline (key).

Not just financial buzzwords, but also constituent buzzwords for life. 

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