After a two-year struggle with bile duct cancer, David passed in Madison, Wis., Feb. 13, 2021. 

David was executive director and chief investment officer at the State of Wisconsin Investment Board (SWIB), managing a $120 billion fund for 650,000 current and former state employees. The Governor of Wisconsin, Tony Evers, honored his life work, saying, “David provided visionary leadership and the strategic direction to forge a stronger and more certain future for thousands of Wisconsin retirees.” 

David was born in Albuquerque, N.M., toured with Up with People in his senior year of high school, and arrived at Princeton in the fall of 1972. His wife, Jane Villa, sums up the significance of his college years: “Princeton changed his life and transformed him from an introverted Hispanic kid who didn’t leave Albuquerque until his senior year of high school to a confident man who felt he could hold his own with the best of them.” In his freshman year David coxswained for lightweight rowing, where he met his junior/senior year roommate Neil Hauck who recalls that David “commanded a boat with that same humble yet confident demeanor that would help him navigate the business world with such great success.” Neil recalls David’s “robust head of hair and diabolical mustache” that earned him the nickname “Pancho.” 

David joined the Nassoons as a second tenor in his sophomore year. The Nassoons of ’76 sing his accolades. Bancroft O’Quinn: “What a genuinely kind, caring, and talented human being.” David McCormick: “I will forever remember Pancho as a kind, sweet, thoughtful, and respectful human being who enhanced our lives at Princeton.” Steve Bogardus: “It was wonderful to have him drift back into the ’Soon family.” Ben Indig recalls a 2018 visit with David to Gruhn Guitars in Nashville: “Thinking back on that afternoon helps me remember Pancho now.” Jim Porterfield, who invited David into his home and helped him convalesce after his surgery, recalls David’s “quiet intelligence, indeed brilliance, and remarkable fortitude in the face of adversity.” 

David joined Cap and Gown Club in his junior year and spent the following summer teaching English in Peru and researching his senior thesis in economics. His Princeton A.B. was followed by a master’s degree in Latin American studies at Stanford and an MBA at Northwestern, where he met Jane. The two married in 1979 as David began his work as an auditor at Arthur Andersen, later at the First National Bank of Chicago. He was recruited by Brinson Partners in 1991, rising from performance director to operations manager to client relationship manager, and eventually to the investment team. Mike Jacobs, his colleague at Brinson and SWIB, found his “mastery at all those disciplines” to be remarkable, showcasing David’s “wide range of knowledge” and “expert preparedness.” David left Brinson to work with the Florida Pension Board (2004-2006), before taking his expertise to SWIB in Madison. Kaleem Caire, founder and CEO of One City Schools, commends David for being “a deeply intelligent, insightful, and powerful influencer and supportive confidant.” David served as trustee of the Financial Accounting Foundation, was a member of the 300 Club and director and treasurer of the Marguerite Casey Foundation, and received awards for innovation and leadership.

We share our loss with David’s daughter, Elena, and his wife, Jane, who writes: “He lived to serve and once he couldn’t serve, he allowed his suffering to end. He had the grit, ability, and laser focus on his goals that have allowed Princeton graduates to make this world a much better place.”

The Princeton Class of 1976 will always hold, in honor and affection, the name of David Villa.

Undergraduate Class of 1976