Chief Investment Officer Collette Chilton to retire in December

Lena Kerest

Photo courtesy of Collette Chilton.

After 16 years at the College, Chief Investment Officer Collette Chilton — the first leader of the College’s investment office, established in 2006 — will retire at the end of the 2023 calendar year, President Maud S. Mandel announced in an email to the College community on Jan. 26.

Deputy Chief Investment Officer Abigail Wattley ’05 will take over the position following Chilton’s retirement.

Mandel praised Chilton’s work in her email. “Collette and her team’s work to manage our endowment is what pays for core aspects of our mission, from academic excellence to access to sustainability,” she wrote.

In an interview with the Record, Chilton said that the support that the investment office has provided to the College has been the greatest accomplishment of her tenure. “We’ve provided billions of dollars to Williams to be able to do everything that goes on at the College,” she said.

Chilton offered a metric that measures the success of the College’s Investment Office: “The amount of money that we’ve provided to the College by outperforming the market more than paid for all of the financial aid during the time that [the office has existed],” she said.

Under Chilton’s leadership, the investment office has produced $1.4 billion that has gone towards faculty members, facilities like the Science Center and the Davis Center, and financial aid for 5,420 students, according to Mandel.

“She has also directed more than $30 million into impact investments that help reduce global greenhouse gas emissions,” Mandel wrote. “Meanwhile, her team has grown the endowment itself from $1.6 to $3.5 billion, to continue providing this level of support in perpetuity.”

Still, Chilton said she wished the investment office had started to focus on increasing diversity among the student programs sooner, recalling that, despite the importance of representation in her industry, she didn’t have many female mentors at the start of her career.

Now, her role on the advisory committee of Girls Who Invest helps mitigate the gender gap in the investment industry. The non-profit is “dedicated to increasing the number of women in portfolio management and executive leadership in the asset management industry.”

In the last five years, with Chilton at the helm, the investment office has focused on diverse hiring practices among the programs that are available to students at the College. “If you look at the students who have done our programs for the past five years, I think it’s 70 percent women and students of color, or higher,” Chilton said. These programs include a Winter Study class called Investing with Purpose, a summer analyst program for undergraduate students, and a full-time analyst program for graduates.

Chilton noted that the 2008 financial crisis — which occurred just two years into her tenure at the investment office — was a particularly challenging point in her career; since then, Chilton said, the office has consistently tried to innovate and incorporate new research to better understand its portfolio. “We’re always trying to do more with less,” she said.

Finally, Chilton highlighted her appreciation for the College. “I’ve had the great pleasure of working at Williams and I feel like the luckiest person in the world to have had this opportunity,” she said.

According to current Investment Committee Chair and Trustee Tim Barrows ’79, “From the moment Collette Chilton first set foot on campus, she has done a lot more than ‘keep the lights on.’ Her exceptional judgment and leadership of the investment team have had a profound impact on the college and will benefit many generations of students to come.”