Board of Trustees Dine and Meet with Students as Part of Campus Visit


Last week, as the buzz of Homecoming weekend was just beginning for many Colgate stu­dents and alumni, the 35 mem­bers of the Board of Trustees were making the pilgrimage back to Hamilton, NY with a differ­ent agenda on the table. Their homecoming was tightly packed with board meetings and events between October 13-15, but the Board of Trustees managed to squeeze in two meals with stu­dents to give them the chance to meet, greet and talk Colgate.

Specifically, the Board of Trust­ees is a body of 35 members that has fiscal responsibility for the conduct of the University; they meet four times a year, usually on-site. Besides encounters like those organized this past Friday, these powerful individuals are largely invisible in the daily life of the University.

On Friday afternoon, sev­eral hundred students attended a lunch at the Hall of Presidents (HOP) hosted by the alumni leadership of the Presidents’ Club. All seniors were invited to this networking event, as well as any other current student members of the Presidents’ Club.

“The trustees were seated at different tables and students were seated with trustees who had experience in the student’s area of career interest. Other alumni members of the Presi­dents’ Club also participated and provided their career ad­vice and served as networking resources,” Vice President and Senior Advisor, Secretary to the Board of Trustees Robert L. Tyburski said.

In the evening of the same day, Board members were able to interact with students in a more personal setting during a catered dinner in Donovan’s Pub. Administrative staff identi­fied students with a broad cross-section of interests and activities to invite.”We try to keep the numbers low enough to be intimate and allow for meaningful discussion. In Friday’s case, we wanted to have two trustees per four stu­dents or so,” Interim Vice Presi­dent and Dean of the College, Scott C. Brown, said.

Students were assigned to small tables with one or several trustees; besides dining, there was no explicit agenda to the evening and conversations were diverse and personalized.

Many students left Donovan’s Pub raving about how interesting and accomplished the trustees they had encountered were with their lives after Colgate.

“At the dinner, I was able to sit with three trustees, Class of ’71, ’72 and ’91, all of whom were extremely amiable and genuinely interested in what was occurring on campus. Most notably, Gus Coldebella ’91 joined us later on in the dinner and humbly told us anecdotes of when he was one of the head litigators for Homeland Security under the Bush administration,” senior Alex Restrepo said.

For trustees, the dinner pro­vided the opportunity to meet current students and hear their take on the state of the univer­sity. Alumni were able to catch up on student life at Colgate and the changes to academ­ics life. For students, the din­ner was a opportunity to voice their opinions.

“From my observation and conversations with the board, I sensed very good engagement and trustees used the conversa­tions to learn why students chose Colgate, the nature of their aca­demic, residential and extra­curricular experiences, what’s working well and what needs improvement,” Tyburski said.

“I think the dinner with the Trustees is a very worthwhile event. You get to meet people that are invested in Colgate and genuinely want to know about your experi­ence and share information and advice with you. You also get the chance to hear about the experienc­es of other students from various backgrounds, grades and organiza­tions,” senior Sarah Ellis said.

“The idea for the student-trustee dinners in Donovan’s Pub this past Friday night was the product of collaboration by President Herbst and Chair of the Board [of Trustees] Denis Cronin ’69,” Tyburski said.

But though the formats of en­counters vary, the board likes to be engaged with both students and faculty members in some form every time it convenes. This element of the program has been true for many years.

The two trustee events, though similar in that they allowed students to interact directly with the Board, had very different purposes and therefore atmospheres.

“The lunch was much more broad and open, it was more about our life after Colgate, versus the dinner, which was about our ex­periences at Colgate and what we could do to make Colgate better,” senior Terica Adams said.

These two meals, and espe­cially the Friday night dinner, allowed a very important interac­tion and informational exchange to take place between the alumni responsible for the direction and fate of the University and the stu­dents who are ultimately affected by their input.

Although the students’ reac­tions to the events on October 14 were generally positive, some valuable suggestions were put forward, as well.

“The board members that I spoke to were pretty insightful, and they offered some good ad­vice in terms of how to network and maximize my Colgate edu­cation. At the same time, I felt that Homecoming weekend was perhaps not the best weekend for sharing different things that we could improve about Col­gate. The conversation was not extensive enough that we could communicate to them exactly what changes we expect as stu­dents on campus and where the needs are,” sophomore Marvin Vilma said.

Contact Rebekah Ward at [email protected]