Nuanced Selection Criteria Tailor Board of Trustees to Fit College Needs

By Wendy Hankle, August 25, 2017

Nuanced Selection Criteria Tailor Board of Trustees to Fit College Needs

It’s a position like few others, and attracts an equally distinctive roster of candidates.

Members of the Ithaca College Board of Trustees are called upon to utilize their experience, intellect, enthusiasm, and ingenuity to move the institution forward. Trustees wear many professional hats, from human resources executives, to corporate vice presidents, to chairs of charitable foundations, to attorneys. They are most often alumni or parents, but such a direct connection isn’t mandatory. And candidates do not all need to have the same financial status, religion, political affiliation, or educational record.

So what are the requirements to be an IC trustee?

“We expect each trustee to be an engaged and interested advocate for Ithaca College,” says Tom Grape ’80, chair of the board of trustees and a member of the board since 2009. “We want them to be ambassadors for IC, to not only attend trustee meetings, but attend local events and campus events whenever they can.”

Important, too, is an understanding of the value of consensus.

“We’re looking for board members who have a deep understanding of where the institution is and where it wants to go,” explains Jim Nolan ’77, who was elected to the board in 2012. “People who are able to work in a collaborative manner with the institution’s leaders to achieve common goals.”

Nolan is the chair of the board’s Governance Committee, which is charged with finding, vetting, and putting forward trustee nominees. Careful attention is paid to each candidate’s strengths, and how those strengths match the current needs of the institution.

Nolan acknowledges that there is work to be done to bring more diversity to the board. He looks forward to collaborating with President Shirley M. Collado, who has made inclusion a major part of her professional work, to bring about change.

“We are sensitive to the makeup of our board from a diversity standpoint, and we need to continue to be vigilant in getting a broad cross-section of representation,” Nolan says. “I’m confident we’ll make progress.”

Once a trustee is selected, one of the first orders of business is to assign the new member to a committee. The board has 10 committees, ranging from buildings and grounds, to educational affairs, to investments. Committee assignments can change, as can the makeup of the board itself when trustees’ terms end and begin.

“The real work of the board gets done in our committees,” Nolan says. “We spend a fair amount of time aligning people’s talents, expertise, and experience with those committees.”

And committee assignments aren’t the only driver in selecting new members. Grape says the board strives to be responsive to the institution’s evolution by reflecting campus demographics and concerns. Efforts are made to bring new trustees aboard who can help guide the college through human resource changes, philosophical reflections, a transforming campus climate, morale challenges, and student life issues.

“It takes a lot of time to be a trustee, and it’s a big commitment,” Grape says. “Trustees are not paid, and in fact they pay to come to Ithaca, and they pay all their own expenses. Not only are trustees expected to donate to the college within their means, they are generally expected to lead the way on philanthropic programs.

“The people who serve on our board serve because they love IC.”

Find out more about the Board of Trustees and the process by which trustees are chosen.