Foundation Mourns Loss of Alice Handy, Friend and Team Member

Alice Handy

Brilliant, generous, confident, unpretentious” are the words friends and colleagues have used to describe the late Alice Handy. With her death on May 30, 2023, the Foundation lost a dedicated member of its Council and chair of the investment committee.

“Alice was an extraordinary investor, pioneering entrepreneur, board leader, and philanthropist,” said Foundation Chairman Neal F. Kassell, MD. “She was a person who made the world a better place. She shattered the glass ceiling for women in finance – and in her cool way, didn’t even make a big deal of it. Every person and institution she touched was fortunate and better for her involvement.”

A Trailblazing Entrepreneur
In 2003, Alice’s impressive career leapt forward when she formed Investure, a firm that popularized the full-service outsourcing of “Ivy League” type investment offices for smaller colleges and foundations. During her tenure as president and CEO, the firm grew to $12 billion in assets and gained national attention in 2011 when Bloomberg Business News reported that it had “vanquished” Harvard and Yale’s endowment returns.

“She really created a whole industry at some level,” said Verne Sedlacek, the former CEO of Commonfund, a money manager for nonprofits.

Before founding Investure, Alice managed the University of Virginia’s endowment for 29 years, beginning as its first chief investment officer and later becoming treasurer and finally president of the University of Virginia Investment Management Company. She also served as treasurer of the Commonwealth of Virginia from 1988 to 1990.

A Generous Spirit
Alice invested in people and causes that mattered to her. As early as 1995, she was renowned for sharing her investment acumen with not-for-profits throughout Virginia, while also raising three young children with her husband, Peter Stoudt, and breaking new ground in a cutthroat business.

Alice Handy and Peter Stoudt
Alice Handy and Peter Stoudt at Versailles

Leonard Sandridge, former executive vice president and chief operating officer of the University of Virginia recalls, “Alice was a special individual. She was always overcommitted but never too busy to take on another project that she thought worthy. Her counsel to organizations went well beyond sharing her investment expertise. If she believed a group was doing something good, she gave it her all.  The University and other institutions Alice touched are far stronger today, able to do more, and able to do it better because of her leadership and efforts. Alice just did what was right and she did it her way with humility and passion. Our institutions and programs benefit every day from her time with us.”

Meredith Woo, president of Sweet Briar College said, “When I arrived at Sweet Briar in 2017, Alice was one of the first people I sought out. I asked her whether she might consider managing our endowment. Unfortunately, she had to refuse because Investure’s minimum was around $300 million, but she was a firm believer in the power of women’s education. Having herself attended Connecticut College when it was all female, she was willing to serve as a member of our investment committee and guide the transition of our endowment to the outsourced chief investment officer model.”

Woo adds, “Alice was a blithe spirit — an attractive combination of a mathematical genius and a flower child. She could be as laser-focused and sharp as she could be nonchalant and carefree, and she was always intensely loyal to friends.”

Alice served as board chair, trustee, and investment committee member of numerous organizations that fostered democratic processes, preserved history, advanced education and medical research, and benefited the local Charlottesville community. The list includes Monticello (the Thomas Jefferson Foundation), the Miller Center at the University of Virginia, the Smithsonian Institution, The American Friends of the National Gallery London, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Connecticut College, the United Way of Greater Charlottesville, and the Charlottesville Area Community Foundation. 

Reflecting on Alice’s service as Monticello’s board chair, Gene Lockhart said, “Alice had an incredibly deep faith and conviction in the purpose of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation. She was a consistent and determined leader who had a unique ability to let people talk, but then form actionable consensus. When I succeeded her as chair, she was determined that we needed to finish the campaign to endow the Papers of Thomas Jefferson: Retirement Series project, to ensure that the scholarly, definitive edition of documents written by or to Jefferson was completed. She didn’t care about having her name on buildings, it was all about the mission.”

Alice was the granddaughter of a Cape Cod cranberry farmer; Handy farmers have lived on the Cape since 1685. She and her husband, Peter, shared a deep commitment to preserving historic sites and land conservation. The couple have been recognized for their leadership at Montpelier and the Piedmont Environmental Council. Together, Peter and Alice conserved more than 1,000 acres in Albemarle County, Virginia, and saved historic buildings in the Piedmont, including Mountain Grove, an early example of a classic Virginian Palladian house.

Friends and Mentors
Alice always seemed to be to be slightly bemused by her success as an entrepreneur, and she characteristically credited her friends and mentors.“ There is a natural affinity with your clients,” she said. “It’s never just a business thing. That was a common thread in all of my Investure relationships. You become friends with them.”

Another friend, venture capitalist John Glynn, encouraged Alice to take the leap to form Investure and helped her outline the steps required. In three months’ time, the firm was up and running.

John recalled, “Alice was a visionary. She had a lot of inner strength and self-confidence. She saw an opportunity and marshalled the forces to make it happen, inspiring young people to join her venture. A lot of people have good ideas, but Alice knew how to evaluate and manage risk, and that was a big part of her success.”

Along with Smith College, the Batten family and Landmark Corporation were important early clients for Investure, a relationship that blossomed into friendship with Jane Batten. Alice regarded Jane as her role model of an impactful philanthropist. “I’ll remember Alice as a strong and creative female leader in the financial world, but more importantly as a delightful and caring friend,” said Jane Batten.

Alice Handy and Neal Kassell at Symposium 2022
Alice Handy and Neal Kassell at the Women in Focused Ultrasound Luncheon at the 8th International Symposium on Focused Ultrasound

Friendship motivated Alice to get involved with advancing focused ultrasound. “It was simple. Neal asked, and I said yes,” said Alice. “Neal is a great neurosurgeon, and we had been friends for years. He created an investment committee for the Foundation and asked me to chair it.”

Neal refers to Alice as his “champion and Wonder Woman,” adding that, “Alice served the Foundation in every possible role – as a friend, mentor, advocate, donor, investment committee member, Council member, and ultimately as a potential patient.” 

From Advocate to Potential Patient
Alice and Peter’s interest in focused ultrasound was heightened by family medical history and the potential for focused ultrasound to someday slow or reverse neurological disease. Alice was particularly close to her father, Carleton, a DuPont company executive and research chemist. Carleton lived with essential tremor until he passed at the age of 94. Three of Alice’s cousins and a grandmother passed away with forms of dementia related to Alzheimer’s disease. Peter cared for his own father as he struggled with Alzheimer’s.

Over the last year, Alice was bravely confronting her own difficult diagnosis with a neurodegenerative condition. She had recently been given a preliminary diagnosis of frontotemporal dementia – a condition akin to Alzheimer’s that is estimated to affect 50,000 to 60,000 people in the United States. Despite the diagnosis, she was determined to stay active with her large circle of family and friends (she and Peter have seven grandchildren).

Neal said, “She was once again setting an example for us by pursuing the latest treatments and seeking to enroll in a clinical trial. She had already done so much for the Foundation, and we benefitted by her willingness to share her perspective as a patient. We mourn the loss of this extraordinary friend and human being and wish to express our admiration for her and her contribution to the mission of our Foundation.”

A Tribute from Dick Mayo, the Foundation’s Investment Committee Member

You are lucky in life if you get to know someone special. That is how I think about Alice.

I got to know her after she hired the money management firm I helped to create. I learned early that she had a great understanding of the investment process. She would often ask insightful questions that were intended as encouragement to help you examine your own analysis and learn from the dialogue. For me, our relationship was a learning process.

She pushed me to develop my skills with simple statements such as, “Dick, you are not good at that. Why don’t you spend your time where you excel?” This was delivered with a matter-of-fact tone – as an encouragement not a criticism. There was always a calmness to our conversations. I never saw her agitated, but there were frequent smiles.

We developed a mutual respect. We both were thoroughly captivated by investment challenges. It was stimulating for us both. She helped broaden my perspective. Our investment abilities can add value to the nonprofits we serve and enhance their futures. That is a motivation, and she infected me with the desire to also contribute to the organization itself. She prodded me to join the Thomas Jefferson board, contribute to the Miller Center, and help to manage the Focused Ultrasound Foundation’s funds.

I have known Alice for what seems like a lifetime – she was a great personal friend. She cared about people. If I may use an example, my son died 13 years ago. At the time I lived in Sudbury, Massachusetts. At the church, as I approached the podium, I looked at the people in attendance, and I saw Alice Handy – a wonderful surprise. This memory is always present with me. It is not easy to get from Charlottesville to a Boston suburb.

Once again, I will say I am lucky to have known her. She will be missed.

Dick Mayo