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.

About Ezra Silk

I have been interested in journalism ever since I was an editor at my high school student newspaper, where I was involved in a freedom of speech controversy that was covered in the local newspaper as well as local television and radio outlets. The ACLU became involved, and the ensuing negotiations lead to a liberalization of my school's freedom of expression policy. I worked as a summer intern at the Hartford Courant after my freshman year at Wesleyan, reporting for the Avon Bureau under Bill Leukhardt and publishing over 30 stories. At the Argus I have been a news reporter, news assistant editor, news editor, features editor, editor-in-chief, executive editor, blogger, and multimedia director. I have overseen the redesign of, founding the Blargus and initiating ArgusVideo at the beginning of my time as editor-in-chief during the spring of my junior year. During my senior year, I have co-edited the Blargus with Gianna Palmer and founded Argus News Radio, a 15-minute weekly show produced by WESU 88.1 on which I conduct a weekly segment interviewing seniors about their thesis topics. I have written over 70 stories at the Argus and continue to do reporting and blogging as much as I can.
  • Ron Medley, `73

    Vice-President Kannam was at the PAC forum on the economic meltdown, a little over a year ago. It didn’t receive much campus coverage, but, he did answer questions about Wesleyan’s investments.

  • ’11

    Can someone please do an interview and some reporting on this? Clearly all is not right here. Either Tom was fired, in which case it seems sudden because there wasn’t a replacement lined up. Or he quit, which is interesting in itself.

    It would be really bad if the University weren’t fully capitalizing on the recent upswing in the market because we didn’t have someone full-time at the helm.

  • Ben

    The e-mail gets sent out two days after his departure and states only that he has left “to pursue other opportunities.” Pretty tough to make it more obvious that he was forced out…

  • David Lott, ’65

    “It would be really bad if the University weren’t fully capitalizing on the recent upswing in the market because we didn’t have someone full-time at the helm,” says “11.”

    Oh if it were that easy.

    It’s worse if the University isn’t capitalizing because Mr. Kannam was at the helm.

    Kannam was a disaster for Wesleyan. He me-tooed the University into types of investments that were far too risky and illiquid. For Harvard to lose several billion dollars is far less damaging than Wesleyan losing a hundred million plus. To put it bluntly, Harvard can afford the losses and raise funds to replace them. Wesleyan may not be able to.

    I have been looking for a more recent update to Wesleyan’s dismal investment results reported earlier in the year. Unfortunately I think we just got that report.

  • Anonymous

    Tom Kannam was a brilliant and modern investment professional who strongly believed in the mission of Wesleyan and had significantly, and smartly, moved the school’s endowment into the ranks of some of the most sophisticated endowments in the country. Non one complained when returns were excellent prior to the world financial meltdown … and the endowment is snapping back now. Tom is one of the best minds in endowment management and will be proven as such.

  • Anand Gopalan

    Unfortunately, due to Tom’s commitments on campus many may have seen him as being reclusive. It takes a lot to have a 3-man team running a $700-mill endowment fund.

    My interaction with Tom was nothing short of wonderful and amazing. I approached him to intern at the investment office in my junior year and he was happy to take anyone interested in learning about investing and teaching them. I was also involved on the SBC committee on the proxy voting, which Tom was as excited about as our committee was. All in all, I think he was a brilliant person and frankly, I don’t think we would have even seen the kind of endowment that we have right now, taking into account the losses that have been sustained, without his vision and long-term strategy.

    Best of luck Tom. Wes and all of us who worked with you will miss you!

  • David Lott, ’65

    “and the endowment is snapping back now. ”

    It is? Have you seen the report?

  • Anon
  • lonely word

    Is it true that Kannam invested Wesleyan money into his own families businesses? I’ve heard that he and his wife’s relatives have benefited from his judgment and integrity along with the inscrutable hedge fund he was “moonlighting.”
    As a Wesleyan business student who is worried about the taint this might put on my future resume, as well as pissed about all the cuts to my school with friends and teachers whose lives have been ruined by all of the self-indulgent arrogrance allowed to stalk the shadowy halls of our campus – leaving the scattered remains of promises and dreams writhing in in the agonizing wake of those who have left to pursue other, as yet unviolated, opportunities. These people are what’s wrong with this country, this culture, and civilization in gereral. I have some compassion for their families – now being crushed under the weight of shame by association – but it doesn’t sound like they complained about the good times when they were privately enjoying the ride. Creating and living within your own moral universe is all fine and dandy if it’s only affecting and risking your own well-being. Not when it makes those who trust you into victims.

  • Doug Lederman

    To Lonely Word: Please contact me.

  • Anon

    Both Kannam and Gill worked at Wood Gundy. In 2005 Gill had a foreclosure

  • Jason Kabel

    It doesn’t matter how good or bad he was for the endowment, etc. If the allegations are true, the sociopath should rot.

    Could there be better evidence for the theory of “multiple intelligences” than the guy used Wesleyan e-mail resources to communicate his misadventures?

    Tip from a Computer Science alum: don’t use work computers for sketchy crap. There’s no such thing as private email

  • student

    Everything you read is only one side of the story. People make bad decisions and sometimes cross lines, but I don’t believe that Mr. Kannam ever had anything but good intentions. Regardless of blurred lines which may or may not exist, he was a man of honesty and integrity and should be remembered as such.

  • Wesleyan Student Body

    Good riddance you piece of shit, Kannam

  • Wesleyan Student Body

    Hahaha, Anand, you and Kannam are part of the same mutual admiration society of assholes who fuck up everyone else’s lives and then enjoy life in the most free democracy on the earth. You and Kannam are the reason CANING and public flogging should be continued. Anand, you are either a total asshole or an incredibly naive jerk. Either way, stop breathing my air and go back to Calcutta.

  • Arch C. Alumni

    Brutal Wesleyan student body. I’d admonish you, except that what you wrote in your posts is true. Tone it down a bit. We agree with you.

  • Carm Diaz

    Thomas Kannam was NOT a brilliant investment manager as someone above has mentioned. He is a guy who rode the wave of strong economic performance and just was in the right place at the right time. When the economy went south, our endowment fund imploded thanks to that worthless sack of shit. I hope he is convicted and spends a decade in the same cell as his homosexual partner in crime Bernie Madoff. They deserve each other for there dishonesty and crimminal behavior. Kannam you are an asshole.

  • Traffic cop

    Dear 3:07:

    I believe you are in the wrong place. If you are looking to try out your vocbulary of ad hominem attacks, you want

    Thank you.

  • An DiFranco

    I worked for Tom for a short time when he first came to Wesleyan. I must say he was easy going and very nice man. I still remember going thru the files together. I can’t believe what I am hearing about his deeds. I quess sometimes we want too many material things and get gready. Too bad, what a waste of good talent.