Thomas Kannam, one of Wesleyan’s least well known yet most influential administrators, has left the building. In a vague campus-wide email today, President Roth announced that Kannam, the Vice President of Investments and Chief Investment Officer, “has left Wesleyan University to pursue other opportunities.”
Kannam was the first administrator to have the title of Vice President of Investments. He had been Director of Investments at Wesleyan since 1998, and was promoted to Vice President by President Doug Bennet in 2005. The title came with its perks, as Kannam was the second-best paid individual on campus in 2007, earning $460,000 to President Michael Roth’s $564,000, according to the University’s 2007 public 990 tax form.
In his time at the Investment Office, Kannam presided over a steady growth of Wesleyan’s endowment to a peak in the mid-$700 millions in late 2007. That all came tumbling down when the stock market imploded, and Wesleyan’s endowment hit a recent low when it dipped below $400 million last spring. It is yet to be seen whether Kannam’s departure is related to the recent endowment troubles.
In the Spring of 2007, Kannam was thrust into the spotlight when Students for Ending the War in Iraq (SEWI) initiated a lengthy campaign to divest from the weapons contractors General Dynamics and Raytheon that ended a year later when the Board of Trustees voted unanimously against divestment. SEWI was openly critical of Kannam, accusing the Vice President of giving them the bureaucratic run around when they tried to pursue divestment through administrative channels. Others had trouble getting information from Kannam. In a November 13th, 2007 editorial, the Argus endorsed SEWI’s call for divestment, criticizing Kannam for a lack of transparency:
Chief University Investment Officer Thomas Kannam has not responded to Argus, WSA, or SEWI inquiries regarding Wesleyan’s current investments. Additionally, the Office of Investments has not released any quarterly holdings or proxy votes made in the name of Wesleyan, leaving students, parents, and alumni unsure about the University’s investment decisions. Students and alumni deserve to know how money is being spent.
In the end, Kannam never really emerged from the shadows. After the Board rejected divestment, the public didn’t hear much from him again.
Anyhow, I guess that’s all she wrote. Goodbye, Tom. We hardly knew ye.