Board Elects New Chair, Vice Chair

Chris Nickels

Christopher Clifford ’67 and Margaret “Peg” Flanagan ’80 recently were elected Chair and Vice-Chair, respectively, of the Colgate Board of Trustees. Clifford will succeed the current Chair, John Golden ’66, in June, and Flanagan will succeed current Vice-Chair Howard Ellins ’73.

Golden served as a trustee for 13 years, and six years as the Chair.

“Board Chairs have served at Colgate for traditionally about six years. John Golden was completing his sixth year and thought it was time for a change,” Secretary of the College and Secretary of the Board of Trustees Kim Waldron said.

The Board’s decision to put Clifford and Flanagan in charge was an easy one.

“For the past two Chair selection processes, what the board has done is have one of its committees – it’s called the Nominating Committee – basically contact every Board member and discuss with them who they think would be the best candidate for Chair,” Waldron said. “Mr. Clifford’s name was definitely the one that came up most often as the best choice. He and Peggy Flanagan were unanimously approved by the board.”

Both Clifford and Flanagan are well qualified for their new positions, according to Waldron.

“Flanagan and Clifford work well together,” Waldron said.

Clifford is managing director of the private equity firm Berkshire Partners, located in Boston. He earned an MBA from the Harvard Business School after receiving his Bachelor’s degree at Colgate. He has served on the Board of Trustees since 1999.

Flanagan has been a trustee since 2001. She earned a law degree from the Georgetown University Law Center and afterwards became an attorney at a Boston law firm. Her election to the position of Vice-Chair was a novel one.

“Peg is the first woman Vice-Chair of the Board of Trustees, and that’s kind of a nice mark for Colgate alums,” Waldron said.

As the Chair, Clifford will have significant influence over Colgate’s future plans and initiatives.

“The Board Chair is responsible for running all the board meetings and really for helping set the agenda,” Waldron said. “He is seen as the leader of that body – and that body is the ultimate group that makes the strategic decisions that move the institution forward.”

Clifford understands the importance of his position, and hopes to continue Golden’s sometimes-contested initiatives, especially the Strategic Plan, which provides the framework for the University’s goals in areas of diversity, academic excellence, wellness, residential life and more.

“The Board’s principle responsibility is to make sure that there is a clarity of mission. The Board does all it can do to provide the resources necessary for the administration to be able execute the Strategic Plan, and making sure we have the financial resources to do it,” Clifford said during a phone interview.

Clifford specifically wants to make strides in improving and maintaining the quality of Colgate’s academics.

“The importance of the academic program, I think, has to be paramount, because that is the nuts and bolts of what the school was set up for,” he said.

Clifford sees the new library and the Ho Science Center as steps in the right direction.

“The Ho Science Center, I think, is exciting because it’s really reflective of the dramatic changes which have happened in science over the last thirty, forty years,” he said.

Clifford wants his chairmanship to be a continuation of what Golden started. He plans no drastic changes, and instead wants to see the goals of the Strategic Plan met, although he hinted at several future projects.

“We certainly are looking at what facilities we need from an arts standpoint. I’d say we’re in the early stages of making assessments there. The same is true in the athletic and wellness area,” Clifford said. “We’re in the early stages of programmatic review of facilities to understand what we need [and] what students want.”

He said that any new initiatives would have to take place on a longer timeline, however.

“I think we will want to take a little bit of a breather after Ho,” he said.

Clifford’s own positive experiences at Colgate drove him to further serve the Colgate community later in his life.

“I believe the quality of education and the emphasis on critical thinking … are important assets to have within this country and beyond that. That’s why I’m happy to give time and resources to Colgate. I believe they can provide a very strong education and foundation for people, to go out and be impactful [sic] in a positive way,” he said.

He also acknowledged the positive impact Golden had during his time as chair.

“I hope that I can be half as effective as John has been,” he said.