The retirement of CIO Collette Chilton

To the Williams community,

I write to announce that Chief Investment Officer Collette Chilton will retire from Williams at the end of calendar year 2023.

Everyone who has been at Williams over the last sixteen years has benefited from Collette’s work, but relatively few know to whom credit is due. So I want to take this occasion to note some of her contributions.

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. As Collette herself often puts it, she and the Investment Office staff have to deliver monthly checks to “keep the lights on” at Williams, regardless of how the markets are behaving. Since being hired by the Board in 2006 as our first full-time CIO, she and her office have produced $1.4 billion that we have used to attract and support great faculty; pay for facilities like the Science Center and the Davis Center; and support $726 million in financial aid to 5,420 students, among other contributions. She has also directed more than $30 million into impact investments that help reduce global greenhouse gas emissions. Meanwhile, her team has grown the endowment itself from $1.6 to $3.5 billion, to continue providing this level of support in perpetuity.

Trustee Emeritus and Former Investment Committee Chair Michael Eisenson ’77 P ’07 says, “People on campus may not realize this, but what Collette has accomplished is extraordinary in terms of building a great team and helping them achieve above-benchmark returns to support our mission. Her work has quite literally changed lives, and for that among her many other contributions we owe her a lasting debt of gratitude.”

As Michael says, Collette has recruited and developed a top-notch crew of professionals and mentored an impressive number of future CIOs. She and her staff have also run three linked programs to build and diversify the profession’s pipeline, involving more than 125 Williams students to date. During the last five years, more than 70% have been people from backgrounds underrepresented in finance.

Another of Collette’s Investment Committee chairs and close partners, Trustee Emeritus Jonathan Kraft ’86, says, “Collette’s commitment and talent have driven extraordinary investment performance and advanced the careers of a host of outstanding professionals. Although she didn’t attend Williams, she matches any of us in her passion for the college. Her contributions to our mission and students stand out even in the crowded field of our 230-year history.”

With typical forethought, Collette has committed to stay through the calendar year to ensure a successful transition. After an extensive process, the Board, which oversees the Investment Office has selected Abigail Wattley ’05 to succeed her as our next CIO. Abigail, who is currently our Deputy Chief Investment Officer, joined the office as an investment analyst in 2007 and has excelled in a series of increasingly senior roles. She combines this experience with her firsthand sense as an alumna of what makes Williams special: as an undergraduate she majored in economics, served as a J.A., played violin in the Student Symphony and competed in varsity crew, including during the team’s 2002 national NCAA championship. Once Abigail becomes CIO on July 1, Collette will assume the title of Senior Advisor to the Investment Committee while they work together during the transition. I look forward to introducing Abigail to you more fully next summer.

Collette Chilton is one of the superb behind-the-scenes people who do so much to make Williams what it is. She is a valued member of my senior team, a wise, level-headed adviser and an active campus volunteer at the college’s Covid testing site, a conductor of the now-famous library candy carts and an avid supporter of women’s soccer. Her colleagues and I will miss her dearly. Fortunately, we have almost a full year during which to express our gratitude.

I will close with one more Board tribute, from current Investment Committee Chair and Trustee Tim Barrows ’79 P ’13. “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.”

Please join me in thanking Collette for her service to Williams, and congratulating Abigail on her forthcoming role.