Most Willamette students are aware that the Board of Trustees is an entity that exists at Willamette. We see them walk around campus in formal wear a few times a year, and we hear about their financial decisions every so often. However, the true workings of the Board remain a mystery to the majority of the student body. What is it that they actually do and what sort of decisions are they responsible for making?
Currently, the Board of Trustees is made up of around 20 members, including representatives for faculty and students from all three colleges. According to Colleen Kawahara, Administrative Secretary to the Board, the majority of trustees are Willamette alumni or parents of past and current students, and they are elected by the Subcommittee on Trusteeship each May.
“Our trustees are an accomplished and dedicated group of people who share a deep loyalty to Willamette and to its students,” she said. “Some come through our Advancement division who work closely with alumni and donors, some are recommended by other trustees and others come in from outside recommendations. Candidates are vetted to ensure the person is able to help the board achieve its strategic and financial goals.”
Once established as members of the Board, trustees meet at Willamette three times a year, in October, February and May. The most recent meetings took place Feb. 21-23. Meanwhile, the Board’s Executive Committee (currently consisting of Chairman Dale C. Sause, Vice Chairman Lynne H. Saxton, Secretary Sean O’Hollaren, Assistant Secretary Kerry R. Tymchuk, Immediate Past Chair Steven E. Wynne and Treasurer Dan Valles, along with individual committee chairs) meets monthly to make smaller changes. However, when the entire Board meets, members make decisions that determine large changes within the student body.
“There is a general schedule of when certain decisions are made. For example, tuition is set at the October meeting, faculty tenure decisions are made in February and the budget is approved at the May meeting,” said Kawahara.
Overall, Kawahara explained, the Board’s job is to oversee the general policies in place at WU and ensure that the school maintains healthy levels of financial and physical stability. “Trustees authorize the University’s strategic plan and approve the institution’s budget, which includes granting tenure for faculty members since tenure is a long-term financial commitment for the University,” she said. “They also select and appoint the president of the University and evaluate that person’s role and performance.”
Currently, ASWU President Akerah Mackey-Watkins (‘19) is the only student from the College of Liberal Arts (CLA) who plays a role in the Board of Trustees, serving as a representative for the CLA student body. Board meetings are generally not open to the public, but Kawahara notes that, according to Board bylaws, non-members may attend meetings at the invitation of the president, Board chair or committee chair.
More information about specific trustees can be found on Willamette’s website under “University Leadership.”