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Uncovering the mysteries of the Lawrence trustees

What is a trustee? When we hear that word, most of us think money and donations, which are indeed essential to the survival of a university. In truth, a trustee does much more than that. “The Board of Trustees is, in essence, the managing body of the institution. It’s a group of people who are responsible for thinking about the direction of the institution and for managing the stewardship of the university,” said Jake Woodford ‘13, assistant to the President.

It is beneficial, then, that most trustees are Lawrence graduates. “They feel a strong connection to the community, they have an understanding of what Lawrence is about, what it’s like. Even trustees who are not Lawrentians work hard to understand what this place is, what it’s about, what our mission is,” said Woodford. The trustees value the liberal arts, their place in higher education and, especially, their place at Lawrence.

“Lawrence, as a liberal arts institution, is uniquely situated to help students understand the complexities of living in the 21st century. It challenges them to think across disciplines and communicate effectively,” said Lawrence alumna Renee Boldt, a board member and member of the Student Affairs Committee. One of their many goals, in all the meetings and discussions, is to “help Lawrence become the best version of itself possible,” said Woodford.

Within the Board of Trustees, there are several different committees, each focused on a different aspect of university management. The Finance Committee, Audit, Development and Investment committees handle the monetary discussions, while the Academic Affairs, Student Affairs, and Recruitment and Retention committees focus on the student experience.

The Executive Committee and Committee on Trustees manage internal board issues. The committees work closely with university administrators, such as the Office of Admissions working with the Recruitment and Retention Committee on enrollment issues. With so many committees, it is surprising that there are only 31 members, including President Burstein.

Woodford explained to me that these 31 members meet three times a year, in the fall, winter and spring, over three days to discuss “all of the issues that are impacting Lawrence and higher education and thinking about the future of the institution, [as well as] maintaining the things that are great about Lawrence.” Throughout the entire three-day meeting, the prosperity and longevity of Lawrence University are in the forefront of everybody’s minds.

The board members work hard to help make the university the best it can be to serve the students who attend. Boldt finds the most rewarding part of being a trustee to be “turning ideas into reality. The goal is to make Lawrence a place where students can develop their own potential, so that while they are at Lawrence, and certainly after they have graduated, they are able to turn their own ideas into reality.” The success of Lawrence students is paramount to everyone involved in the Board.

“My proudest moments as a trustee are when I hear about the amazing work students are doing, either through classroom studies, internships or study abroad. To think that I might have played a small role in these students’ education makes me very proud.  On top of that, post-graduation, students are translating what they have been taught, and how they have been taught, into amazing careers.”

In the end, the board members seek only to serve the university and its students in the best way possible.

As Woodford states, “That’s what Board service is about. There’s philanthropic support, but there’s also this intellectual support in lending their expertise to the function of Lawrence, and that’s so important to us, it cannot be underestimated.”