Connecticut College Magazine · Spring 2011

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On the cover: Writer/producer Lee Eisenberg '99 entertainS a packed evans hall in the first of a series of centennial "Conversations with alumni" in January. Photo by Bob Macdonnell

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Investing their Knowledge

Investing their Knowledge
Photo by Bob MacDonnell.

Board of Trustees brings a broad range of experience to the table

By Jim Berrien '74


At our most recent meeting in February, the College's Board of Trustees discussed rising costs, the future of liberal arts education, facility requirements for science research, the athletics program, student health and wellness, the honor code, and much more. Talk about a wide-ranging conversation.

I was struck by the depth of talent and experience in the room. The College's 30 trustees are leaders in many areas including finance, business, industry, academia, real estate, communications and nonprofit management. The majority are alumni; a few are Connecticut College parents, who bring a different and equally important perspective to our discussions.

The board's most important role is fiduciary oversight: making sure that the College uses its resources wisely and takes the necessary steps to sustain it into the future. To do that, we have to understand not only the inner workings of Connecticut College, but also the larger challenges that face higher education and liberal arts colleges specifically.

As always, we spent a lot of time looking at cost and pricing issues. Extraordinary faculty, a low student-faculty ratio, a high level of personal attention and a 750-acre campus are essential to the quality of education here. At the same time, these features are expensive to maintain. Next year, our comprehensive fee will exceed $54,000, and that doesn't even cover the full cost of education. Every student is also “subsidized” by income from the endowment and contributions to the Annual Fund.

Securing the financial future of the College is central to all our discussions. To date, the Campaign for Connecticut College has raised $157 million toward its $200 million goal. Of that total, $41 million has come from current and former trustees. All of the trustees have already made gifts or commitments to this year's Annual Fund.

I'm proud that in a difficult economy, we've been able to continue investing in the educational experience. In the past five years, the College has built a fitness center, renovated dorms, introduced new residential education programs, increased faculty and student diversity, hired new faculty, and raised faculty salaries to a more competitive level. Next year, we will invest in more campus improvements, a new science center in New London Hall and a new café in Harkness. These investments benefit every student.

My fellow trustees have an extraordinary commitment to Connecticut College. A high point of our campus meetings is the opportunity to interact with students. At the February meeting, we had the pleasure of hearing all five of the College's a cappella groups sing. We had lunch and dinner with more students who talked to us about their experiences on campus. Many of us also met with student government leadership for a spirited conversation about the Honor Code.

As always, I was impressed by the quality of students and the ways in which they aspire to make the world a better place. I left campus feeling energized and optimistic. Yes, it's expensive to provide liberal arts education of this caliber. And it's a lot of work and time. Yet, when I meet with students, I have no doubts. It's worth it.

James S. Berrien '74 is chair of the Connecticut College Board of Trustees.


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