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Business Officer Magazine

Celebration, Rededication Along the Potomac

From tributes to past achievements and leaders, to a program packed with inspiration for facing new challenges, the NACUBO 2012 Annual Meeting made history as the association marked its 50th anniversary.


The following NACUBO staff members and consultants contributed to this report: Mary Bachinger, Liz Clark, Jeanne Cure, Bryan Dickson, Bill Dillon, Anne Gross, Whitney Guttmann, Amy Hemphill, Karla Hignite, Nancy Maguire, Sue Menditto, Natalie Pullaro, Kenneth Redd, Randy Roberson, David Rupp, Carole Schweitzer, Maryann Terrana, Preeti Vasishtha, Dorothy Wagener, and Tadu Yimam.

Photographs by Rodney Choice, Choice Photography; and Bryan Dickson

It was planned to be "an event to surpass all others," said John Walda, NACUBO president and CEO, at the opening general session of the NACUBO 2012 Annual Meeting.

And surpass it did. The 50th anniversary of the association's founding—and NACUBO's 42nd annual meeting, July 28–31 at the Gaylord National Harbor—set a new record for attendance, with 1,950 paid registrants, 3,200 total attendees, and a sold-out exhibit hall. (The previous record was 1,572 paid registrants and 2,626 total attendees in San Francisco in 2010.)

Special events, recognitions, and venues enhanced a celebration designed to honor the past and set the stage for the future. The theme, "Looking Back, Leading Forward," explained Walda, "was meant to pay tribute to the chief business officer profession, the many individuals who have devoted time and energy to its development, and the progress we've made during our first half century."

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Walda summarized the history of the four regional associations of chief business officers and the events that led to NACUBO's founding in June 1962. Since that time, he noted, the association's original mission has held true: to educate business officers and to find a common voice for higher education administration. "We've established numerous best practices, a respected profession, and a national scope and presence from which to influence public policy," Walda said.

NACUBO's CEO then took plenary session attendees on a trip back to the early 1960s. "We've gone from Telstar, the first communication satellite to transmit television images, to Skype, Twitter, and Facebook. We've seen the struggle of James Meredith seeking to enroll as the first African-American at the University of Missouri, to Barack Obama's swearing into office as our first African-American president."

The opening event, held the previous evening at the Newseum, showcased similar profound changes since NACUBO's founding, noted Walda. The venue, located between the White House and the U.S. Capitol, documents the evolution of modern media. Attendees viewed Pulitzer Prize—winning news photos of dramatic historical moments, and studied other exhibits illustrating the technology that supports instantaneous transmission of words and imagery.

NACUBO's own media event took the form of an anniversary video screened during the opening session and featuring reflections of eight longtime NACUBO members and volunteers. One interviewee, Danny Flannigan, CBO, Spelman College, Atlanta, summarized: "In my 40 years in higher education, I have interacted with some of the most talented and collegial men and women who nurtured me and made me sensitive to the issues of higher education. NACUBO and its members became a sanctuary for financial and accounting expertise of the business officer."

Capping off the opening general session, Walda called on Patricia McGuire, president of Trinity Washington University in Washington, D.C., to welcome attendees on behalf of the higher education community.

"Trinity is a case study in strategic planning, strong governance, and collaborative partnerships," McGuire said, "and, it's a collective biography of great teams." One of the most important relationships for McGuire has been the one with Trinity's financial team, specifically with Barbara La Tier, chief business officer, and Tracy Berman, controller. Said McGuire, "La Tier's overhaul of our business management practices into modern systems was a study in fortitude. This great CFO taught me to build in the [financial] margins so that we could finance the mission." McGuire added that the discipline of the financial team combined with strong board leadership has been the main contributor to Trinity's success.

As for the path forward, McGuire sees entrepreneurship as essential to higher education. "A strong future will be based on the biographies of our change agents and entrepreneurs," she said.

One such NACUBO trailblazer, Mary M. Lai, treasurer emerita of Long Island University, Brookville, New York, was singled out during the next day's plenary session to receive NACUBO's inaugural Pathfinder Award. Created in honor of the 50th anniversary, the recognition went to Lai in part, noted Walda, for her "continuous service to her alma mater and her profession totaling 66 years-and counting." (To read about Lai's career, see "A Woman for All Seasons" in the September 2012 issue of Business Officer).

Also new to this year's annual meeting: Monday afternoon sessions centered on the theme of career development; tours to numerous D.C. historical sites; and an optional session the evening prior to the New Business Officers program, designed for those new to the field of higher education. 

Last, but not least, the meeting concluded with a party: the closing event, complete with balloons, cake, live music, diverse cuisine, and commemorative anniversary gifts for attendees.

Here are highlights of NACUBO's historic celebratory meeting on the Potomac.