While most Knox students may know that the Board of Trustees makes important decisions for the college, like deciding who our next president is going to be, many might not know what other tasks fall under the duty of the trustees.
“The Board of Trustees is the governing board of the college,” President Roger Taylor said.
In order to govern an institution such as Knox, it was the board’s task to create the bylaws of the college.
“Those bylaws delegate certain responsibilities to the faculty, and [they] delegate certain responsibilities to the president,” Taylor said.
Taylor, who was named a trustee in 1988 and graduated from Knox in 1963, said that one of the key tasks of the board is to “oversee the financial health” of Knox.
Members do not get any kind of compensation for being on the board. It is just the opposite—members are asked to donate $25,000 a year to Knox’s annual fund, in addition to whatever individual projects members might choose to donate to.
“Board members are expected to contribute to the college,” Taylor said.
The members of the board are located all over the country and convene three times a year.
Taylor said that a new development for the board is a task force to determine what they want Knox to look like in 2030, in terms of its endowment and the size of its student body.
“The board had a retreat last April 2010, and coming out of the retreat was a task force to consider…how to have Knox have a top-tier endowment by 2030 and to consider what the size of the student body should be in 2030,” Taylor said.
According to Taylor, using Carleton College as an example, a top-tier endowment would be one around $600 million. Knox’s current endowment, as of December 2010, is $81.9 million.
“That is the highest endowment value in the history of the college,” Taylor said.
In terms of the task force’s vision for the future, Taylor said they would like to see a student body of 2,000 or less, but that the task force is still working on deciding on a definite number. The task force includes six trustees, three members of Knox’s senior staff and Taylor.
There are currently 53 trustees listed on Knox’s website, three of those being honorary trustees and 15 being life trustees. All Knox graduates, the trustees come from a wide range of fields, including academics, law, journalism, accounting, photography and others. One of those members is the board’s current young alumni trustee—Erica Jaffe, ’08.
“Specifically, in my role as young alumni trustee, it’s to create a bridge between the board, which is maybe on campus three times a year, and the current student body or recent alumni,” Jaffe said.
Jaffe was appointed to the board in June 2010 and will serve a four-year term. Jaffe believes that because of how active she was when she was a student at Knox, she stood out as a candidate for the young alumni position.
“The woman who was the young alumni before me … she was also very active on campus,” Jaffe said.
Her nomination was not something she applied for, but rather something she found out about when Taylor called her and informed her she had been chosen.
In efforts to connect the board with the current student body, faculty and staff, Jaffe attends admitted student weekends in Chicago, where she currently works as a consultant for Navigant Consulting, Inc. She also works on “maintaining contact” with other alumni.
“There are a lot of people I graduated with … [I try to] keep them informed. I try to use social media for that,” Jaffe said. After she heard about Knox students donating their meal swipes for Galesburg students who might have been without lunch in January, she forwarded The Knox Student’s link to the story to “at least 200 people,” she said.
“I’m just happy to be there and be able to offer some opinions,” Jaffe said.
She said that even when her role as the young alumni trustee is over, she plans to stay active at Knox.
Aside from selecting a young alumni trustee, the board also involves the current student body at Knox by allowing two observers from Student Senate to take part in committee and general board meetings every year. This year, junior Kelly Grant and freshman Shelly Bhanot attended
“Our job is mainly to be accountable to the Senate and serve as a liaison between the Student Senate and the Board of Trustees to encourage communication and understanding between the two,” Grant said.
She said that she has made several connections with different trustees, and that she feels student presence at board meetings is important.
“When they see students at meetings, maybe they feel like they’re really accountable to us,” Grant said. “I feel like I have gained a better understanding of how the backbone of the college works.”
Taylor said that other goals the board is faced with include how to finish construction on Alumni Hall, how to increase salaries for faculty and staff and how to complete work that needs to be done on other academic facilities and residence halls. Taylor said that, in a step toward increasing salaries, the college has endowed eight chairs in the past eight years.
“We’ve raised $10.4 million … that goes into the endowment,” Taylor said.
To Taylor, the benefit of being a trustee is “seeing the operations of a top-tier liberal arts college up close…You’re involved in promoting and supporting higher education.”