Summary of the June 2023 Board of Trustees meeting

To the Williams community,

The Board of Trustees convened June 2-3 for their meeting in conjunction with Commencement. It was a full, productive and enjoyable weekend.

We were joined for this meeting by two incoming members of Senior Staff: Kimberly A. ’96 and Robert R. ’62 Henry Professor of Economics Lara Shore-Sheppard and Deputy Chief Investment Officer Abigail Wattley ’05, who on July 1 will become Dean of the Faculty and Chief Investment Officer, respectively. The June meeting was a chance for them to sit in as part of their orientation, and the Trustees warmly welcomed them.

Following is a summary of the topics we covered on Friday and Saturday.

  • I provided the Board with a report on the Strategic Plan and our progress thus far. In particular, also discussed the importance in the current, challenging financial and philanthropic environment, of making choices about our future use of resources to reach our ambitions.
  • The Trustees received an update on the Energy and Carbon Master Plan from Provost and Class of 1955 Memorial Professor of History Eiko Maruko Siniawer ’97, Assistant Director for Energy and Utilities Jason Moran and Zilkha Center Director Tanja Srebotnjak. The group discussed ways to combine our work on campus decarbonization with our ongoing renewal of campus dorms and facilities.
  • The Board also heard a presentation from Director of Integrative Wellbeing Services Wendy Adam about how Williams could take an educational approach to supporting students’ wellbeing. The Board encouraged Wendy to engage campus in discussions of this work as she refines her proposal with senior staff.
  • After a progress report on solutions to replace the Towne Field House, the Board endorsed a phased approach:
    • As a first step they approved expenditures for demolishing the current field house, which we reported to them can’t be restored to a safe and effective level.
    • They also encouraged our campus task force to continue refining cost estimates and program implications for a short- to medium-term temporary facility, with the goal of a final proposal later this summer.
    • Finally, they endorsed the college’s concurrent attention to future facility needs and renewals for athletics.
  • In addition to such timely topics, the Trustees also voted on college policy and heard routine reports:
    • In support of our sustainability efforts, the Board voted to approve a new Sustainable Building Policy for the college.
    • They also heard a report on college finances from Vice President for Finance and Operations and Treasurer Mike Wagner. The Board expressed appreciation for efforts by Mike and Eiko and their teams to refine our financial projections and identify potential levers that can be pulled in the future to help us strategically prioritize our spending. They also acknowledged the college’s work to educate our community about college finances and increase transparency. In that spirit, look for a community message from Mike and Eiko coming soon about the FY24 budget and financial outlook.
    • Finally, the Trustees heard reports on endowment performance from Chief Investment Officer Collette Chilton and on fundraising results and future plans from Vice President for College Relations Megan Morey.

Additionally, the Executive Committee of the Board held a lunch meeting with members of the Williams Staff Committee. The Trustees value such chances to meet with representatives of the staff and hear about staff experiences.

At a Friday evening dinner the Trustees took time to celebrate and thank five people who will conclude their service to Williams this summer: Chief Investment Officer Collette Chilton, who is retiring July 1; outgoing Dean of the Faculty and John B. McCoy and John T. McCoy Professor of Psychology Safa Zaki, who is leaving that same day to become president of Bowdoin College; and Trustees Tim Barrows ’79, Andreas Halvorsen ’86 and Mariam Naficy ’91. All five have made a huge difference in my life and the life of the college through their counsel, partnership and friendship. So I want to express my gratitude to each of them here, for their devotion to Williams’ long-term wellbeing and excellence.

Three new members will move into the open seats starting July 1: Trustees Jan van Eck ’85 and Jeff Rhodes ’97 and Alumni Trustee Danielle Deane-Ryan ’97. I am glad that they will continue Williams’ history of extraordinary fiduciary leadership and service to the college. Finally, I want to congratulate Trustee Elizabeth Andersen ’87, P’18, whom the Board selected as their next chair, effective July 1, 2024.

After a busy two days of meetings, many Trustees stayed through the weekend to attend our Commencement program. We love celebrating our graduates and their families on this momentous occasion! I’m grateful to the Board members and all of you for the shared commitment that makes such rewarding outcomes possible.