University of Vermont

Board of Trustees

Board of Trustees, Chair's Report

David A. Daigle
Board of Trustees, Chair’s Report
May 20, 2016

Welcome everyone to a beautiful weekend of celebration at The University of Vermont.

This is my first report as chair of this board.  I would like to thank my fellow trustees for their ongoing support and trust.  I would also like to thank our former board chair, Deb McAneny, for her dedication and service to this board and University, and, more personally, for her ongoing mentoring and counsel.

I am a native Vermonter, and a graduate of the class of 1989.  I was born on the hill at what we now proudly call the University of Vermont Medical Center.  As an infant, I was treated at the medical center for spinal meningitis, and spent nearly a week in the intensive care unit, so I have always felt a debt of gratitude to the professionals who have made the medical center such an outstanding institution.

Even as chair of this board, my role is but one small part of a collective effort that produces the accomplishments that we celebrate all year, but especially this weekend.  The administration, the staff, and especially the faculty of this University play a profound role in shaping the lives of the students who pass through this campus.  As we celebrate the current graduating class’ achievements, let us not lose sight of our longer term obligations to future generations of students, and the associated challenges.

The world is changing at a very rapid pace, and higher education is certainly not immune to the forces of evolution and competition.  There is no shortage of editorials questioning the future of higher education, the value proposition of higher education, or the funding of higher education.  One professor recently labelled this “the discourse of doom”.

I am no fan of the discourse of doom.  I believe this institution has the capacity to not only survive, but to thrive.  What happens here, what has always happened here, the education of young women and men so they can lead purposeful and meaningful lives, is too valuable to surrender to the forces of evolution.  But make no mistake, we must adapt and evolve.  I can think of no more powerful antidote to the threats facing higher education than the passionate pursuit of excellence.  I want to briefly highlight two recent evolutionary changes at UVM that are intended to facilitate the pursuit of excellence and prepare us for future challenges:  IBB and the UVM Foundation.

A few years ago Dr. Robert Low graciously and ably stepped in to serve as our interim provost.  During his tenure, he was quoted in a press article as follows:

“Deans are in a much better position to understand their academic units than I ever could be.  You have to provide the deans the authority and responsibility to manage their ship.”

Could the case for IBB have been made any more succinctly?  The discussions that began nearly four years ago regarding the University’s budget model culminated in the recent implementation of IBB.  As we conclude our first full academic year with the new model, it is evident that the transition was an absolute success.  I want to congratulate Provost Rosowsky, all of the members of the IBB Steering Committee, and everyone who played a role in the implementation – well done.   

As Provost Rosowsky has stated, at its root IBB is about promoting academic excellence.  The decisions about how to allocate scarce resources are never easy, but if we are to collectively be serious about advancing academic quality, IBB is a powerful tool that will allow us to focus investments in the most strategic areas.  IBB is not simply a different way of accounting for what we do; its power lies in changing how we invest our scarce resources to improve the quality of our programs for the benefit of our students.  Our board is confident that IBB puts us on the right path.

Five years ago, the University of Vermont Foundation was established with the objective of increasing philanthropic support to advance the academic mission of UVM.   Under the guidance of Eugene Kalkin, John Hilton, and the rest of the Foundation board, the results have been amazing.  We are most fortunate to have Rich Bundy at the helm; he has built an outstanding institution that has the capacity to truly transform the University in coming years.  Rich will share more details in a moment, but recent gifts to the University from just two families, the Larners and the Grossmans, total approximately $50 million.  These gifts will be transformational for two of our colleges, and I want to personally thank both families for their commitment to the advancement of academic quality at UVM.

Donors give when they believe in an institution and its ability to make a difference in the world, when they believe in the mission and leadership.  In President Sullivan and Provost Rosowsky, we are incredibly fortunate to have two passionate, dedicated, and effective leaders to present to our prospective donors.  From the two of them to all of our deans and all of our faculty, success in fundraising is really about donors believing in you.  The more committed we are as an institution to the pursuit of academic excellence, the more we will find donors who are inspired to help us move mountains.  Funding from tuition and a state appropriation that is persistently declining in real terms will never cover the costs of what we hope to achieve.  Over time, the UVM Foundation will play an increasingly important role in funding our aspirations and protecting us from evolutionary threats.

One more point on the Foundation.  We have an endowment that will hopefully soon reach the half billion dollar mark.  As you know, these are funds that have been donated to the University over generations, along with accumulated investment gains.  I believe that this board has, over many years, provided effective stewardship of these funds, as evidenced by solid relative returns as compared to peer endowments.  It is essential that we continue this effective stewardship if we are to secure and maintain the trust of donors.

Let me finish with a very warm welcome to our three newest trustees, for whom this is their first official full board meeting.  Their bios are on the trustee website, so I will not review their backgrounds, but we are thrilled to be joined by Soraiya Thura, Briar Alpert, and David Aronoff.

Enjoy the weekend, as we celebrate our 215th commencement.  Thank all of you for everything you do for the University of Vermont.

This concludes my chair’s report.

Last modified October 21 2016 02:54 PM