President Richard J. Cook: The Last Word
Extraordinary Commitment, Extraordinary People
By President Richard J. Cook
Traveling from Munich, Allegheny trustee Dag Skattum ’84 spent thirty-five long hours, plagued by storm delays and flight cancellations, to attend a recent board meeting. Last year, he and his wife, Julie Grosjean Skattum ’85, launched a million-dollar challenge to increase the Annual Fund.
Trustee Patricia Bush Tippie ’56 and her husband, Henry, are making possible the restoration of Cochran Hall, creating a beautiful and welcoming place for alumni when they visit campus. Pat also regularly meets with our Tippie Scholars, students who receive scholarship aid through her generosity.
What leads people, already busy with personal and professional obligations, to make such extraordinary commitments? What is the role of the board of trustees, and what are the responsibilities of trusteeship?
Committed Friends, Tireless Advocates
Allegheny’s board of trustees comprises some forty unpaid volunteers who collectively are responsible for the overall governance of the College. Allegheny’s trustees, many of whom are alumni, represent a wide range of age, background, and expertise. Electing an individual to trusteeship is the highest honor and expression of confidence the College and its board can convey. Trustees-among the most committed friends of Allegheny-fervently believe in the College’s mission, understand Allegheny’s remarkable history and character, and know that the educational experience offered here is essential for developing citizens and leaders.
The board of trustees reviews and ultimately determines the mission of the College. In addition, trustees have a special responsibility to conduct long-range planning, examining the College’s relationship with the external world and the challenges and opportunities we are likely to face in coming years.
Because the College’s mission will be accomplished only with adequate resources, ensuring sufficient physical, monetary, and human resources is one of the trustees’ most critical and challenging roles. Student tuition and fees, supplemented with state and federal student aid, provide the core funding for our operations. However, tuition and fees alone have never been sufficient to provide the quality educational experience that Allegheny offers. Gifts, grants, and earnings from the College’s endowment fund provide the critical margin for scholarships, professorships, buildings, and operations.
Trustees are among our most generous supporters. They have provided more than $42 million of their own funds in current and planned gifts for the Tradition & Transformation campaign, an impressive testimonial to their personal commitment to Allegheny’s success.
Trustees monitor and guide professional managers in growing the investments held in the College’s endowment and trusts; ensure that available funds are budgeted in a sustainable manner and are directed toward the College’s priorities; confer with independent auditors to ensure that the College’s finances are represented in accord with the highest professional standards; and give general oversight to the building program to ensure that our campus’s historical and aesthetic aspects are preserved and enhanced while meeting the educational and residential needs of students and faculty.
Trustees hire, advise, and evaluate the president, who also is a member of the board and chief executive officer. The board expects the president to manage the institution effectively and to see that its many constituents are served. As part of this charge, Allegheny trustees have been tireless advocates for alumni, as reflected in initiatives like the summer Alumni College, the alumni center, regional programming, and Alumni Council involvement in College planning and governance. Trustees are also a steady source of support, expertise, and guidance to the senior staff and me, as well as tireless advocates for Allegheny off campus.
Going the Extra Mile
Allegheny’s trustees fulfill the formal obligations of trusteeship with dedication and effectiveness, but they also go well beyond. Their level of respect and affection for the College and their fundamental character as people lead them to do extraordinary things.
Robert Marchman ’80 mentors students and networks with alumni to increase their connections with the College. Christine Scott Nelson ’73 chairs the Timothy Alden Council and offers student internships at her business. Ann Simakas Degenhart ’71 writes hundreds of personalized notes to donors. Tom St. Clair ’57 and Dave Hoag ’60 co-chair the fund-raising campaign and spend countless hours planning and traveling on behalf of the College. These are but a few more examples of the extraordinary personal engagement the members of our board have with Allegheny. Their service goes well beyond the normal “job description” of trustee.
Those who serve as Allegheny College trustees consistently say that this is the best board on which they have ever served. They consider it an honor to be a trustee, and they enjoy their interaction with one another and with faculty, staff, and students. Even more important than the camaraderie, the board knows they are involved in deliberations and decisions that are important to the College’s future. These stewards of Allegheny College are working in behalf of not only today’s students and alumni but of generations yet to come. Allegheny is fortunate to have such a talented, dedicated, and generous board of trustees, and I am privileged to work with them.
This article was featured in the Spring 2003 Issue of Allegheny College Magazine.