David G. Offensend ’75
Brooklyn, NY

At-Large Candidate

While building a very successful career in finance, David Offensend ’75 kept thinking about a second, public service oriented career. “When I turned 50, I realized I couldn’t wait much longer if I really wanted to do it, and after a bit of soul-searching I decided to take the leap.” He left a lucrative career in finance to join the New York Public Library, where he is the Chief Operating Officer.

A Woodrow Wilson School major, with a certificate in the Program in African Studies, while at Princeton, Offensend received his M.B.A. from Harvard Business School in 1977, where he was a Baker Scholar. He went on to Lehman Brothers for 13 years, eventually serving as President and Chief Executive Officer of the $1.3 billion Lehman Brothers Merchant Banking Partnership. He then spent five years with Texas investor Robert M. Bass, where he was responsible for the leveraged acquisitions portfolio of a $1.8 billion investment partnership.

Offensend co-founded Evercore Partners Inc., the growing boutique investment firm, in 1995. Now with over 300 employees, Evercore makes private equity investments and provides merger and acquisition advice to major companies.

“Public service was always my goal after a “modest” interlude in investment banking,” says Offensend. The idea of seeking a management position in a non-profit organization came from his experiences as a non-profit board member of other organizations.

His board experience is considerable, and he has used his career skills to help numerous non-profits. He is a current member of the Board of Trustees of the Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation; the Board of Directors of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Development Corporation, a large park development project; the Board of Trustees of the Brooklyn Children’s Museum; and the Hudson Highland Group Inc. Board of Directors. He has served on many other boards in the past.

He was attracted to the New York Public Library because it is one of the leading public libraries in the world and a significant research library with a collection of over 53 million items, and a budget of more than $270 million. The system includes four non-lending research libraries and 86 lending libraries in the Bronx, Manhattan and Staten Island. “The Library provides crucial services to millions of people,” says Offensend. Among other things, he is responsible for operating all branch libraries as well as central services such as Finance, IT, Human Resources and Buildings & Construction.

Under his direction the Library has been completely reorganized to optimize services to its users. “Usage is up dramatically because the libraries are open longer hours, and staff has more time to help users instead of handling back office chores.” He also implemented strategic planning practices and strategic goals. Offensend credits his commitment to public service to his days at Princeton. “Throughout my time at Princeton and, in part, because of it, I was oriented toward a public service career.” He says he always felt he would one day apply his skills in the public sector. He has continued to be involved with Princeton through class fundraising around major reunions.

Offensend explains that he has found that non-profit organizations can benefit from business world techniques like planning, metrics, accountability and a sense of urgency. “If an organization is receptive, the application of business world experiences can have a huge positive impact -- enabling organizations to deploy their scarce resources more effectively, and thus having a greater impact. Such an approach is even more crucial during this economic crisis because it can enable organizations to undertake new initiatives and emerge stronger.”