Lehigh Commits $14M So Far In ’09

Lehigh University’s $870 million endowment fund has committed $14 million between two private equity funds so far this year, although the limited partner declined to name them.

The endowment’s current allocation to private equity is about 9 percent. Last year, the LP raised its private equity target allocation to 15 percent from 3 percent, with a range of 5 percent to 20 percent.

Lehigh University anticipates reaching its goal for the asset class within the next five years, but has no target amount to invest per year, Peter Gilbert, CIO of the endowment, told Buyouts. The university’s investments in private equity are opportunistic, depending on the fundraising cycles of managers and its own ability to gain access to targeted high-quality managers. “We are pretty happy with [our] manager relationships right now,” said Gilbert.

Funds that Lehigh University has backed in the past include generalist buyout fund HarbourVest International Private Equity Partners III-Direct and biotech-focused MBW Venture Partners LP.

Gilbert is considered a maverick of sorts due to his penchant for relatively high allocations to alternatives. He joined Lehigh as the endowment’s first CIO in August 2007, after running investments for the Pennsylvania State Employees’ Retirement System for 14 years. There he assembled the largest hedge fund portfolio of any state retirement system. Before overseeing PSERS, Gilbert was director of the Mayor’s Pension Unit in the City of New York’s Department of Finance from 1990 to 1993, and previously worked for a decade in the City of New York’s Office of the Comptroller.

As of June 30, 2008, Lehigh ranked 65th in endowment size among 791 institutions, up from 72nd in 2007 among 785 institutions, according to the National Association of College and University Business Officers.