The Echo covers spring 2018 Trustee Report
Twice a year, a select group of alumni and friends of Colby that make up the governing board of the College gather on the Hill to make decisions on topics ranging from the yearly budget to academic culture. April 20–22 marked the second assembly of trustees on Colby’s campus this academic year, with an off site meeting held in Boston this past Feb. The Echo sat down with Chair of the Board Eric Rosengren ’79, the president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, and vice chairs Jeffrey Packman ’88, chief development officer of Clementia Pharmaceuticals, and Leslie Dougherty Biddle ’89, a partner and president of Serengeti Asset Management.
This meeting covered a variety of issues, with the Bigelow Lab, College communications strategy, financing the new athletic center and downtown development dominating the conversation over the two days of meetings.
The Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences was an important topic of conversation as its relationship with the College continues to evolve to maximize the partnership. This is just one of the many partnerships with labs and other organizations in Maine that represent a unique opportunity for students to gain experience in the field.
Rosengren addressed improving communications infrastructure for students, faculty and staff, alumni, and prospective students, pointing to the challenges of a 24 hour news culture as an obstacle to effectively communicating Colby’s news and achievements.
The athletic center, which will cost an estimated $200 million in addition to $25 million for maintenance, was discussed as the facility is not currently fully funded. A video simulation of the athletic center was also presented in the Committee of the Whole, which all trustees, several members of the administration, selected faculty and student representatives attend before breaking into their sub-committees.
The success of the board is rooted in the diversity of experiences and perspectives of its members, with bankers, economists, doctors and scientists all included. Rosengren points out that, “Colby really views the liberal arts as a very significant component of what we do, and so I think that’s represented around the table… That diversity of experience is really valuable.” Rosengren also pointed out that not only did a vast majority of the Board attend Colby, there are also parents of current or past Colby students, allowing them to be attuned to issues on campus.
Unsurprisingly, the topic of Waterville revitalization was a popular one this weekend, with Rosengren meeting with over 100 local members of the community to discuss these efforts. The board commented that many alumni and important College leaders have long been interested in investing back in Waterville, but that President David A. Greene had the vision and experience to make it happen. A source reported that it was announced during these meetings that Urban Sugar, a donut shop best known for its location at Sugarloaf, is coming to Waterville in the next few months.
Rosengren and Packman use their personal experiences from their time at Colby to assist in their work on the Board. Rosengren is passionate about revitalizing the cities who have, like Waterville, fallen upon hard times since the disappearance of manufacturing and lumber markets. He commented, “In the past year and a half, there has been more development occurring in downtown Waterville than has occurred in the previous 40 years.” When asked about gentrification, Rosengren said the growth represents an opportunity for everyone, and that the movement to get more employers and economic vibrancy back into Waterville will allow everyone to benefit from this revitalization. Biddle also voiced her excitement on this subject, and has worked on the Waterville sub committee for four years. She said, “putting 200 heartbeats downtown is going to change things. I’m really passionate about what’s happening downtown, and I think the students want to be connected to the community.”
Packman is particularly excited about the role of DavisConnects in providing universal access and experiences to students, saying that this is “really quite unique in higher education.” He also discussed the Colby Museum, adding that “the leadership of the Art Museum and the things that are going on with the Lunder institute and Mr. Gates, they take the Colby College Art Museum and elevate it to the level of conversation with the greatest museums in the country, if not the world.”
The Board also discussed how to better integrate the Art Museum’s Board with the College’s Trustees. Having two separate governing bodies allows for the Museum’s leadership to focus on cultivating collections, attracting top level art world talent and heightening the profile of the Museum. However, there is still significant overlap between the two. For example, Paula Lunder D.F.A ’98, serves on the board of trustees and is heavily involved in the CMA and the Lunder Institute.
When asked about the student criticism of the Dare Northward campaign, Rosengren stated “The goal is to excite people to give the kind of money that is necessary to propel Colby over time.” He continues, saying that Dare Northward is a marketing campaign designed to engage everyone, and the money raised during this comprehensive campaign is funding a lot of programs that are unique to Colby and reliant on raising this kind of capital. “There are a lot of elements to the campaign that are a little non traditional, even the Dare Northward marketing campaign” ,Rosengren acknowledged.
Packman added that the City launches have been customized towards the City and Colby alumni, and that their purpose is to bring together alum of all ages to learn about the exciting things going on here on campus and in Waterville. He conceded, however, that the New York City event in particular drew some criticism, but said it also garnered a lot of attention from the alumni community. Rosengren added “this campaign is the way of funding our dreams… unfortunately, dreams don’t come for free, so we have to find a way to fund these dreams.”
Many students have questioned why the College has not gone need blind in light of the fact that they are currently trying to raise $750 million. Biddle pointed to Colby’s consistent prioritization of financial aid, including the new $60,000 income policy, saying, “making sure that Colby is in the best possible position to attract the best possible talent, and making sure that kids that don’t have the resources to pay for it, finding a way to pay for it.” If going need blind is the best way, the Board is committed to instituting these policies.
As Biddle put it, the board realized several years ago that they all shared the belief that “Colby is a jewel, but we want to be better known for it.” All three trustees voiced their shared commitment and vision for Colby as a world class institution with potential to transform our current idea of what a liberal arts education means.