2008 Horatio Alger Award Winner
"Execution supersedes intention is a guiding principle for success."
Gary Brinson was born in 1943, in Seattle, Washington. His father was a bus driver and his mother worked as a clerk at Sears. Following his graduation from Renton High School, Gary enrolled at Seattle University, where he earned a bachelor's degree in finance in 1966.
Gary Brinson paid for his college studies by working after school and weekends at the Oberto sausage factory. He recalls that he was a 'so-so' student, until he took a class taught by Dr. Khalil Dibee, who encouraged his students to reach for their full potential. Dr. Dibee remembered that Gary would still have 'traces of meat on his shoes, but that he came to class, accepted the challenge, and became an A student.' Noting Gary Brinson's interest in finance, Dr. Dibee encouraged him to pursue a master's degree. He helped him obtain a teaching assistantship at Washington State University to finance his studies. Years later, in 2004, Gary Brinson surprised his mentor by donating $3.5 million to Seattle University to endow the Dr. Khalil Dibee Chair in Finance at the Albers School of Business and Economics at Seattle University. Gary Brinson stated 'a significant part of my success in life is attributable to Dr. Dibee's teaching and encouragement during my formative years at Seattle University.'
Following graduate school, Gary Brinson took a modest-paying job as an investment analyst for an insurance company in Connecticut. His work exposed him to world markets, and he noticed how markets outside the United States were rapidly developing and providing important diversification opportunities, while most organizations in the United States were focusing on domestic investments. Mr. Brinson joined the First National Bank of Chicago in 1979 as their chief investment officer. He become one of the first proponents for investing pension funds in a variety of global investments, including both national and international stocks and bonds, as well as private equity, real estate, and junk bonds.
In 1989, Mr. Brinson and several associates purchased First Chicago Investment Advisors from the bank and changed the name to Brinson Partners. They had attracted $36 billion in assets when the company was sold, in 1994, to Swiss Bank for $750 million. Mr. Brinson stayed on as head of the company through Swiss Bank's merger with Union Bank of Switzerland. The merged organization formed the largest bank in the world, and Brinson was named to head the combined asset-management arm, overseeing more the $910 billion in institutional assets.
Managing more than $1 trillion in assets at one point in his career, Gary Brinson became one of the world's most influential investment managers. His business acumen and original approach enabled him to avoid some pitfalls that befell other investors, including the collapse of Japanese stocks in the late 1980s and the decline of technology stocks in the late 1990s.
Along with George Russell, Jr., Warren Buffet, and William Gross, Gary Brinson has become one of the investment field's 'Living Legends.' Among his numerous awards, Mr. Brinson was named outstanding financial executive by the Financial Management Association in 1991. In 1999 he was presented with the Award for Professional Excellence from the Association for Investment Management Research.
After retiring in 2000, Mr. Brinson started his own private investment firm, GP Brinson Investments. He also established the nonprofit Brinson Foundation with the mission to support educational, public health, and scientific research programs that engage, inform, and inspire committed citizens to confront the challenges that face humanity. The Horatio Alger Association is honored and grateful to be a recipient of one of the Brinson Foundation's many grants to nonprofit organizations. The Brinson Foundation grant has helped to provide Horatio Alger scholarships for young people who have faced adversity in his home state of Illinois.