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Business Officer Magazine
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Back Story

Profiles of individuals in roles that support the work of the chief business officer—and who represent the majority of the Business Officer reading audience

By Margo Vanover Porter

 Larry D. Cochran
Associate Vice President/
Finance and Endowment
Lipscomb University, Nashville
35 years in higher education

A Walk in the Park

Four years ago, when Lipscomb University, Nashville, was undergoing campus construction and parking was scarce, Larry D. Cochran had an idea: Why not just park at the football field and walk three quarters of a mile to his office? That way, he could follow his doctor's orders to get more exercise and avoid the hassle of trying to find a coveted spot.  

"I started walking every day and watching what I ate," says the associate vice president for finance and endowment. "I lost 50 pounds. The last time I had my physical the doctor said, 'I diagnosed you with Type 2 diabetes, but really you don't display any symptoms.'"

Now feeling healthier, Cochran has seen many changes during his 35 years with Lipscomb University. "We had 2,100 students when I started in 1978. Now we're up to almost 4,300 in the university. We have another 1,500 in our academy, which is our kindergarten through high school. We actually started our academy to educate the children of our faculty and staff. It is now the largest private K–12 in Middle Tennessee." 

What drew you to Lipscomb?

I started school here in the seventh grade, worked part-time in the business office during college, and graduated from here in 1976. My wife and I really wanted our children to have the same educational experience. I liked the work environment and support the mission of the school. It is a good place to be. Our two children are both lifers.

"Lifers"?

They started here in the first grade and graduated after four years of college. We're unique. A student can enroll in kindergarten at Lipscomb and later receive a doctoral degree in pharmacy.

Do you have separate administration for the academy?

No. Our business office handles the transactions for all schools.

What factors encourage people to give to their universities?

For us, being a faith-based institution, it's our mission. People want to give to an institution that shares their beliefs and that encourages and teaches those principles.

How did your endowment get its start?

One of our graduates who was on the board and also the founder of Life and Casualty Insurance Co. here in Nashville gave us his farm. We sold it in 1983 for about $15 million. That was really the beginning of our endowment.

Have you noticed a reduction in giving in this economy?

No, we have stayed on a steady pace, averaging from $1.8 to $2.2 million a year. Our president has really identified a vision that has helped build the school in the last six years. People believe in his vision and want to give, even though their assets may have depreciated.  

Has your investment committee made any changes to its policies during the recent financial downturn?

Not really. We've pretty much stayed the course, except for a few tweaks. For example, we've increased by about 5 percent our allocation to alternative investments, such as hedge funds and private equity, and reduced equities—specifically small caps—by about the same amount.

What is your asset allocation?

Sixty percent to equities, 20 percent to alternatives, 5 percent each to real estate and commodities, and 10 percent to fixed income and cash.

How can institutions maintain giving in an uncertain economy?

Continue to build relationships with donors and show them the results of student successes from programs helped by endowed funds.

How is fundraising different for a faith-based institution?

While other institutions might focus on specific areas of academia or research, we think a private, faith-based institution has a higher calling and purpose for its existence. Faith is a huge driver.  

MARGO VANOVER PORTER, Locust Grove, Virginia, covers higher education business issues for Business Officer.