There’s a book that Sally Staley ’78, chief investment officer for Case Western Reserve University, loves to recommend. In Investing: The Last Liberal Art, author Robert Hagstrom writes that successful investment professionals can understand why people invest the way they do only by first understanding a wide range of disciplines, including physics, biology, psychology, and literature. “His premise reflects the role that Wooster played in my career,” she says.
Staley says she had no idea that the liberal arts pathway she began at Wooster would result in a career in financial markets. “I didn’t even know that this job even existed—or that I would want to do it. But today when I look backwards, I see that it was a logical, perfect path.” Staley graduated from Wooster with experiences that propelled her forward—residence at Babcock Hall, where most of Wooster’s international students live, an Independent Study on the political implications of U.S. multinational corporations in Latin America, and off-campus study in Bogotá, Columbia.
From Wooster, Staley attended the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University, where she earned her M.I.A. in international affairs. Her living and learning experiences there were an “extension of the Wooster” experience, she remembers. Her career path began to come into focus.
Some of the path included an understanding of international cultures, gained from both academic and personal experience. For example, Staley remembers her first trip to Japan to research international bond markets for Wall Street. There, she used considerable finesse to navigate a male-dominated culture.
As Staley’s path took her from being a seller to becoming a buyer and manager of international bonds, she continued relying on her liberal education. Although she couldn’t have foreseen it, her study in Columbia served her well. “Twenty years ago, Central and South America were not major players in the international economic scene, but today they’re very important emerging markets,” she says.
“The ability to incorporate diverse lines of thought has opened many doors.”
Before joining Case Western Reserve, Staley operated her own consulting firm and worked for both profit and nonprofit organizations. As chief investment officer for Case, she manages a $1.4 billion endowment. Her team’s ability to successfully navigate the current market’s pitfalls was recognized by Foundation & Endowment Money Management with a Large Endowment of the Year Award. Working on behalf of Case’s current and future students is “an awesome responsibility that brings me wonderful satisfaction,” she says.
Staley, who keeps close track of the comparative health of higher education institutions’ endowments, notes that the Wooster endowment’s successful emergence from the recent market crisis placed its operation as one of the “finest in the country.” Staley joined the College’s Board of Trustees in 2006.
“It’s such an honor to be part of the Board and to be able to look at the school through the eyes of an alumna and of a trustee.”
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