In Higher Education We Trust
Giving back, paving the way, securing resources—trustees are responsible for all this and more. Why do they choose to serve?
By Apryl Motley
It's definitely not an easy job, but higher education institutions need someone to do it. What motivates individuals to dedicate their time, as well as their energy and expertise, to serving on the boards of higher education institutions? Most trustees point to the transformative role of education in their own lives as their primary reason for working to ensure a bright future for higher learning in their local communities.
"Both my parents were educators, so education has been important to our family for a long time," says James M. Weaver, former chair of the board of trustees at Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania. Weaver now serves as chair of the board of directors for the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges (AGB). "I had a great experience at Gettysburg College. It was a transformation for me," he says.
While attending the college, Weaver majored in business administration. He also has an MBA from Temple University in Philadelphia. "During my time at Gettysburg College, I got focused on education, and it changed my life," Weaver says. "Serving on the board of trustees was wonderful way to give back something to my alma mater and support what it does for students."
David W. Miles, who is the current chair of the Iowa Board of Regents, gives similar reasons for his ongoing involvement with higher education.
"For me, the ability to get a college education was transformative," Miles explains. "I grew up on a farm in northern Iowa, and my parents wanted their children to go to college." Miles' father didn't go to college, and his mother attended for only two years before getting married.
Miles earned his bachelor's degree from Drake University in Des Moines and went on to receive both a law degree and a master of public policy degree from Harvard University. He served on the Drake University Board of Trustees for 11 years, three of them as chair.
Miles says he "saw what higher education could do for an individual and wanted to be involved in helping others achieve that."
A desire to help others obtain the advanced training and education that had benefited her also led to Marilyn French Hubbard's service on the board of trustees of Central Michigan University in Mount Pleasant.
"I went through the adult learning process at CMU, and my experience in getting a master's degree was very positive," Hubbard recalls. "I was so excited to apply what I learned in class in my everyday work, and I thought it was important for me to spread the word about the benefits of advanced education and training.
"I became an advocate for higher education," she continues. "The leadership at CMU heard me telling my story and took an interest in it." They knew that Hubbard's enthusiasm would likely translate to the commitment and dedication needed to serve as a trustee. Hubbard also serves on the AGB board.
A Call for Specific Skills
Some trustees are recruited based on an institution's need for a specific skill set. This was the case when James C. Stalder, a certified public accountant and former managing partner of the Pittsburgh office of PricewaterhouseCoopers, was asked to serve on the Carnegie Mellon University Board of Trustees.
"They had been successful in attracting CEO types to serve on the board, but there was no accountant on the board at that time," Stalder recalls. "They went looking for a particular skill set." Stalder is a life trustee and currently chairs the board's finance committee as well as serving as vice chair of the audit committee. He also serves on the AGB Board of Directors.
Stalder says that he developed "an affection" for Carnegie Mellon during the 20 years that he served as an adjunct professor in the university's graduate school of business. He is also the former dean of the graduate and undergraduate schools of business at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh.
"I have had the opportunity to compare the caliber of students, faculty, and staff at different higher ed institutions," Stalder says, "and the attitude of the faculty members, in particular, illustrates their confidence and commitment to Carnegie Mellon's mission and educational goals.
"I come from the business world, where collegiality is very important," he continues. "It's the team attitude and spirit that I most admire at CMU. It's been a pleasure to serve. I enjoy being in an environment where people are working collectively to make a significant contribution to society."
It was the opportunity to make a lasting contribution to the community that led to Clifford M. Kendall's decision to focus his time, energy, and financial resources on higher education.
Kendall is a member of the University System of Maryland Board of Regents and currently serves as chair. He also serves on AGB's board.
"Higher education makes such a difference in people's lives," Kendall says. "My wife and I both wanted to be a part of that." Kendall, who earned a bachelor's degree in finance from the University of Maryland, is the former chairman and CEO of Computer Data Systems Inc.
"I ran a company that merged with another company in 1997," he explains. "After that, my wife and I spent some time thinking about how to spend the rest of our lives, and we decided to focus our energies on higher education because it's made such a difference in both our lives."
In addition to his degree from the University of Maryland, Kendall, who worked full-time while attending the university, also has an MBA from George Washington University. He served on GWU's board of trustees and chaired a fundraising effort to construct a new building for the school of business. He continues to serve on the GWU School of Business Board of Advisors.
Earlier in his career, Kendall worked for both American University in Washington, D.C., and Washington University in St. Louis. He has also been on the adjunct faculty at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.
In sum, Kendall likes being where he can best cultivate his "great passion for higher ed."
"Serving on the board gives you more insight on the institution's needs and how to make the greatest impact," he says. "You're better informed about how you can make difference."
APRYL MOTLEY, Columbia, Maryland, covers higher education business issues for Business Officer.