Sally Staley '78
Chief Investment Officer, Case Western Reserve University
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, Colombia.
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 Colombia 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 endowment and pension assets of over $2 billion. She attributes her success in navigating market pitfalls to surrounding herself with talented colleagues, keeping a long-term perspective, and seeking innovative ideas from the ever-evolving global financial markets.
Staley’s work has been recognized by Foundation & Endowment Money Management with a Large Endowment of the Year Award in 2009 and by Trusted Insight with a nomination as one of the “Top 30 Most Influential Women in University Endowments” in 2015.
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 higher education institutions’ endowments, notes that “Wooster’s endowment annually provides hundreds of student scholarships and supports dozens of faculty members. Over twelve hundred endowed gifts from donors over the decades today touch and strengthen every part of the academic program.”
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.”