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Message from the Chair

Following each meeting of the board of trustees, the chair updates the Colgate community about the university’s status and progress.
Denis F. Cronin '69

October 2014

Dear Colgate Colleagues and Friends,

Members of the Board of Trustees participated in a series of informative sessions and events September 18-20, 2014, the first of four board meetings in 2014-15. This is my 13th report to the Colgate community as board chair, and it is a pleasure to describe the board’s activities and discussions while we were on campus.

I want to begin my report, however, with comments about the campus climate demonstration that began Monday morning, September 22, shortly after our meetings concluded. Although we did not know what was planned at the time, board members gained insights about the issues of concern to many students during our annual open board session on September 20. The open session is held during each fall meeting to provide members of the university community with an opportunity to share perspectives on issues or opportunities for Colgate.

One group of students described serious campus climate issues that were articulated with passion, purpose and promise during the peaceful demonstration organized by the Association of Critical Collegians (ACC). I was personally extremely concerned to learn that a significant segment of our student body has been so adversely affected by the actions of others in our community. As I followed the path of the sit-in, I was proud of the way ACC organized and implemented its call to constructive action. So, too, was I proud of the efforts of President Jeffrey Herbst, Provost and Dean of the Faculty Doug Hicks, and Vice President and Dean of the College Suzy Nelson. Their engagement, compassion, patience, dialogue, and thoughtful responses in the form of a written plan provide the road map to the most inclusive Colgate possible.

I believe this is a historic and transformational moment for our university. The board embraces the value of a liberal arts education on an inclusive campus. The opportunities for academic achievement and personal growth and development should be available to all students. The board’s Student Affairs Committee, chaired by Leroy Cody ’71, will work with the administration as appropriate as steps are taken to implement the action plans that were created with the ACC.

Board members arrived on campus Thursday evening, September 18, and many attended a variety of events, including Colgate’s Living Writers Series, the Peter C. Schaehrer Memorial Lecture, and a session on leadership in the Chapel with Mark Divine ’85, CEO of SEALFIT. Board members also attended a program, reception and dinner associated with the re-opening of the Picker Art Gallery. They joined members of the Colgate community in viewing a wonderful exhibition of photographs by Diane Arbus, and the etchings by Richard Serra, generously on loan from the collections of John Pelosi ’85 and Susan Manly Pelosi ’85, and trustee emeritus Paul J. Schupf ’58.

On Friday, September 19, the following board committees met: Academic and Faculty Affairs, Admission and Financial Aid, Audit, Budget (in the form of a joint meeting with the on-campus Budget and Financial Planning Committee), Hamilton Initiative, and Institutional Advancement and Communications. Many of these sessions focused on the steps involved in implementing and funding the goals of the Strategic Plan. We also joined a networking luncheon organized by the Office of Career Services and the Presidents’ Club, and later in the afternoon, participated in the Academic Ambassadors program, an initiative launched in the spring that connects each trustee with an academic department or program. The basic goals of the program are for trustees to develop an understanding of the nature and substance of the work of the faculty, and the issues they face, and for the faculty to learn about the board as well as provide feedback and observations. Our busy day concluded with a “Speakeasy” dinner led by Yukari Hirata, associate professor of Japanese, and Spencer Kelly, professor of psychology and neuroscience and chair of the psychology department. We dined with a wonderful group of faculty and students and enjoyed a spirited open dialogue facilitated by Spencer about online vs. face-to-face communication and learning.

On Saturday, September 20 the board conducted its formal meeting. President Herbst presented data from the senior class survey, U.S. News and World Report rankings data, and a set of “dashboard indicators” developed to help senior administrators track university progress in a variety of areas. In addition to committee reports, we received updates about the residential learning communities, the New Athletic Facility and the Center for Art and Culture. The board also approved funds to purchase a campus-wide fire alarm reporting system.

The next board meeting will be in Miami Beach January 23-25, 2015. This continues our practice of using the January meeting to connect with constituents in a different part of the country. Our three prior meetings were in Palo Alto, Los Angeles, and New York City.

The board remains most grateful for your efforts in support of our students. Please contact me at with any comments, questions or suggestions.

Best regards,
Denis F. Cronin '69, P'09, P'10