It seems as if Georgetown is putting itself on the financial map.

Despite having an endowment substantially lower than that of many of its peers, the university was named Large Endowment of the Year on Monday at the 2007 Non-Profit Awards for Excellence, a recognition of recent gains to the university’s endowment.

In fiscal year 2007, which ended on June 30, the university’s endowment broke $1 billion, increasing by nearly 24 percent from its total at the end of the previous fiscal year, $853 million.

The endowment earned a university-record-breaking return rate of 23.4 percent in the 2007 fiscal year. The rate has increased steadily since dropping to 10.1 percent during the 2005 fiscal year.

“The award was recognition that we succeeded in taking what was a very old-style endowment and turning it into a modern, well-managed endowment in a short period of time,” said Larry Kochard, the university’s chief investment officer. “Our returns last year were slightly better than Stanford’s, Harvard’s and [the Massachusetts Institute of Technology]’s.”

Georgetown has often been criticized for its relatively low endowment among peer institutions. Christopher Augostini, the university’s chief financial officer, told the university’s alumni Web site HoyasOnline that the gap can be attributed to the fact that Georgetown did not begin effectively fundraising until the 1970s, decades after many other top universities began.

Georgetown was pitted against Harvard Management Company and Dartmouth College for the Large Endowment of the Year award during the ceremony, which was sponsored by Foundation and Endowment Money anagement, a newsletter for institutional investors.

University President John J. DeGioia created the Investment Office in 2004. Prior to 2004, all financial matters were managed by consultants and an investment committee on the university’s Board of Directors.

The growth in the endowment is in large part due to the creation of the Investment Office and current investment projects, according to the Office of Advancement’s endowment fact sheet for fiscal year 2007. “[It is] part of [DeGioia’s] strategy to add strong new administrative leaders to his executive team and create greater financial resources for the university,” the fact sheet said.

Kochard said an increasing endowment will help the university mitigate rising tuition costs.

“One of the issues with Georgetown is that our endowment provides a fairly small percent of the operating budget,” Kochard said. “My goal is to increase that. It takes the pressure off fundraising and off increasing the tuition. The larger the endowment, the larger the payment to the university.”

Kochard said that in the coming years, the Investment Office will continue to look for unique opportunities to increase the endowment, reduce the risk involved and try to generate attractive long-term returns.

“As the endowment goes up, it’s going to provide greater support for the university to do projects, award financial aid, grant chaired professorships to attract the best faculty in the world and help establish new programs,” Kochard said.

Foundation and Endowment Money Management considered non-profit institutions for 14 different categories.

“The nominees are selected by the editors, based in large part on the market intelligence that they gain during the year,” said Tracey Redmond, director of awards for the ceremony. “About four months prior to the dinner, the editors put out a call to the industry asking who they thought was most deserving.”

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