Summary of the June 2021 Board of Trustees meeting

Dear faculty, staff and students,

While campus shifts into summer mode, I’m writing to share a summary of the June 2021 Board of Trustees meeting—the last for this academic year. The meeting was held virtually last Friday, June 4. It was likely the last of our virtual meetings, since the Board plans to gather on campus for its next meeting in October. These meeting summaries are always available via the archive on the News from the Board website. 

First, I’m pleased to report that the Trustees reviewed and endorsed the final version of our strategic plan. We’ll spend time this summer readying the document for publication at the start of the fall term. 

The plan draws on extensive research, analysis, discussion and healthy debate within the Williams community, as well as considerable Board input. It was great to hear the Trustees voice such support for our high-level direction. Even a superb college like Williams has to periodically face new opportunities and challenges, and can’t afford to rest on its laurels. The strategic plan will guide us in building on our excellence amidst changing times, including expanding on the ways we strive to achieve academic excellence and realize our values. I want to thank everyone who contributed to the plan, and the many of you who are working on ideas that emerged from the process. 

As I shared with the Board, in many ways the collaboration, engagement and program-building is only just beginning. So I also want to thank you in advance for your participation in the year to come.

As part of the same session, the Board heard a presentation from Provost Dukes Love and Vice President for Finance and Administration and Treasurer Fred Puddester regarding models for ensuring our long term financial health and stability as we move forward with the strategic plan—discussions that will continue in future meetings. 

In the other meeting sessions the Board discussed a presentation by Chief Communications Officer Jim Reische and Associate Vice President for Communications Meike Kaan about strategic messaging and communications planning, and a summary by Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and Professor of Latino/a Studies and Religion Jackie Hidalgo of  the report by the Committee on Diversity and Community on reckoning with our institutional history. As with the strategic plan, we plan to return to these topics with the Board and our community next fall. 

The June meeting also included a number of updates, reports and votes on operational matters:

  • Chief Investment Officer Collette Chilton provided a written report summarizing the college’s investment activity and endowment performance. 
  • Vice President for College Relations Megan Morey and Senior Development Officer Lauren Magrath reported on the Davis Center Initiative, a fundraising effort that has secured $7 million to date for the Davis Center reconstruction. This includes a $5 million anonymous matching gift to inspire alumni, family and friends to support the project.
  • Vice President for Finance and Administration and Treasurer Fred Puddester provided a written report on the college’s finances, which remain sound. 
  • The Board approved the appointment of members to the board of the Clark Art Institute.
  • I updated the Trustees on the search for our next vice president of finance and administration and college treasurer.
  • The Trustees also reviewed two written reports as part of their meeting materials: an overview of the Class of 2025 from Dean of Admission and Financial Aid Liz Creighton ’01; and a report on the Society of Alumni, including its 2021 bicentennial, from President of the Society of Alumni Kate Boyle Ramsdell ’97.  
  • Finally, the Board celebrated and thanked two Trustees who completed their terms of service at the June meeting, Cooper Campbell Jackson ’89 and Tim Belk ’77. I want to add my own thanks to Cooper and Tim, who have been important advocates for the student experience, along with sustainability, campus facilities and more. This was also the Board’s chance to honor Vice President for Finance and Administration and Treasurer Fred Puddester before his retirement this coming August.

The endorsement of the strategic plan was an especially welcome step in our gradual emergence from the uncertainties of the pandemic. Another memorable moment came at the senior celebration a week earlier, when a small number of Trustees joined the platform party. They remarked afterward on the pride and joy they felt at seeing our community in a moment of celebration after many months of hard work and challenges. The Board and I want to express our gratitude for all you did to get Williams to these happy results.