The term “trustee” conjures an image of cloistered, oak-paneled rooms where important men sit and discuss business over bourbon and cigars. The word has a secretive, important, and elusive air. For Knox College trustees, this is only half true: they are important, yes, but not at all elusive or unapproachable.
With that said, most don’t know what a trustee does exactly. They are mentioned a lot and they appear at convocation, but what they do day-to-day remains unclear.
According to college documents, Knox trustees have ultimate responsibility over the college. President Roger Taylor explained, “Knox is chartered by the state of Illinois as a not-for-profit organization. Under the college’s by-laws, the Board of Trustees has the ultimate legal responsibility over the college. This includes general oversight, maintaining the college’s mission, and fundraising by contributing and persuading others to contribute.”
Taylor also mentioned that his office reports to the Board of Trustees, noting that it’s the board’s responsibility to hire—and fire—the President.
The board includes general trustees, who are elected for four-year terms, and life trustees.
Bob Sparks, a Knox graduate and Galesburg native, serves as a life trustee.
“I graduated from Knox in 1956. Before I came here, I would have described myself as an average student; however, the faculty pushed me to make the most of myself,” he said.
After graduation, he spent two years in the army, and then moved into the manufacturing business. Eventually, he went into banking and became the president of the United Federal Savings Bank in Galesburg.
Being a trustee has allowed him “to give back to the college,” he said.
Trustees usually meet once in the fall for commencement, once in winter, and once in the spring.
“Although trustees only meet three times a year, I want to stress that each can be as active as he or she wants to be—most do much more than attend those three general meetings,” said Sparks.
The Board of Trustees is divided into several subcommittees: the Education Committee, the Advancement Committee, the Finance Committee, and the Trustee Committee. Sparks went on to explain that it’s the Trustee Committee’s job to nominate new trustees to be voted on by the entire board.
“Trustees come from all over the country and do not have to be alumni of Knox College. The college’s Business Advisory Council provides many of our new members. From that group, we determine who might be good trustees,” he said.
Sparks expressed extreme optimism as to the college’s future even as many colleges and universities around the nation are facing severe financial problems.
“Knox is well-poised to deal with the recession,” he said. “There’s been much more talk about sustainability, which includes how to keep our financial position strong. Also, I’m confident in President Roger Taylor to lead the college through these tough times.”