University of Vermont

Board of Trustees

Board of Trustees, Chair's Report

Deborah H. McAneny
Board of Trustees, Chair’s Report
February 5, 2016

This is my final Board meeting, and not surprisingly, I have spent a lot of time over the last few weeks reflecting on my twelve years on this board. My conclusion, it has been a thrilling ride. We have enjoyed more than our share of successes: the physical transformation of the campus, a thriving Honors College, a highly successful Foundation, international expansion, record applications, and national recognition on a variety of fronts, to name just a few. And we have faced our share of challenges including navigating the biggest recession of our lifetime, presidential transition, significant budget challenges, and the list goes on and on. While it was fun and easy to wallow in nostalgia, I eventually found myself looking to the future.

Most of you probably don’t know this, but I come from a long line of politicians. My mother, father and grandfather served for many years in the state legislature in Rhode Island. Given the recent death of Mayor Buddy Cianci, now may be a good time to reassure you that these three Rhode Island state politicians were never accused of corruption.

I learned over the years that determining whether we are on the right track or the wrong track is an important first step in polling and a critical element to a successful governance transition.

So, in anticipation of the upcoming passing of the gavel, I asked myself the question: Is UVM on the right track or the wrong track? Ideally I would survey all of you, but I hope you will humor me with the results of this survey of one. After much thought and contemplation, I submit to you that UVM is very much on the right track and its future is bright. There is ample evidence to support my conclusion but let me just highlight a few things:

Our national reputation continues to grow as evidenced by the record number of applications we receive and the increasing quality of the applicant pool. More importantly, we need only look at the important scholarly contributions of our faculty and the outstanding achievements of our students to have a palpable sense of the growing excitement and energy on this campus.

We have not only established a thriving foundation but we have publicly launched the largest capital campaign in the history of the University. With $267M of campaign commitments as of year-end 2015, we are well on our way to achieving our $500M goal. Rich Bundy will be here this afternoon to give us an update on the Move Mountains Campaign, but I would like to highlight one important achievement. As a result of this campaign, we now have over 100 endowed faculty positions. I highlight this because growth in the endowment is a critical element to our plan for financial sustainability, and a topic near and dear to all of us.

Our significant and historic commitment to STEM this past year is critical to the long-term success of UVM. But it also demonstrates the university’s dedication to our land grant mission and UVM’s increasing importance to the economic development of the broader community and the State of Vermont.

Very importantly, we have the right leaders in place across the University and a widely held appreciation for and commitment to our shared governance model that will serve us very well into the future. Working together, under Tom and David’s leadership, the Senior Leadership Team, Deans and the leadership of the Faculty Senate, Staff Council and Student Government Association have not only kept us on track, but are partners in propelling us to an even brighter future. Please join me in congratulating and thanking this impressive team, many of who are here with us today, for the tremendous job they have done advancing our exceptional university.

Speaking of the right leaders, last but not least, I turn to the members of this board. This is by far the most unique board I have ever served on, in so many ways. Its structure and composition is, to put it mildly, distinctive. And yet somehow it works.

The job of trustee in such a complex institution is challenging. But, let’s face it, if this was easy the University would not need us. Over the years, I have been incredibly proud that this group of 25 trustees, from disparate backgrounds, leave their baggage at the door, and time and time again, demonstrate their commitment to doing the right thing for this great university. I am proud of your willingness to ask the tough questions, embrace controversy, remain open to new information and perspectives and sustain your resolve to unite in support of this essential enterprise. It is because of you, Tom, and all of the University leaders in place today that I feel so confident in the future and comfortable in passing the gavel in the next several weeks. Thank you for your selfless and tireless service. It has truly been a privilege working with you and I thank you all for the opportunity to serve as your Chair.

I can’t let this day go by without saying a special word of thanks to Corinne and Erin for all the time, effort and hard work they put into keeping this board and its Chairperson on track. I can assure you it is a constant challenge and they do a tremendous job. Please join me in expressing our gratitude to Corinne and Erin.

I would also like to take an opportunity to thank our hardworking, talented and committed faculty and staff for all you do to make UVM an exceptional place. You are absolutely essential to our success. Our University is better and stronger because of you.

And of course, our wonderful students: engaged, active, hard-working, and a great source of pride for each and every one of us. They are a powerful force for progress and academic achievement, and in so many ways the lifeblood of our institution. Indeed, our students are why we are all here.

Let me also take a moment to publicly recognize our other outgoing Trustees, Dale Rocheleau and Samantha Lucas. We will have time this evening to recognize you for your individual accomplishments, but I want to extend our thanks to each of you for your outstanding service to our University.

And finally I would like to introduce our new student trustee Soraiya Thura. Soraiya is originally from Falls Church, Virginia and is currently a student in the Class of 2018 at the College of Medicine, pursuing her M.D. degree. She graduated magna cum laude with University Honors from Virginia Commonwealth University. Welcome, Soraiya.

We also have here with us today, Briar Alpert, whose nomination to the board is expected to be approved by the UVM Board on Saturday morning. Briar Alpert is CEO and President of BioTek Instruments, Inc., a leader in the creation of microplate instruments and software used in the advancement of life sciences research and to facilitate the drug discovery process. Briar is a 1983 graduate of UVM, with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. He earned a MBA from UVM in ’92. Briar is also on the Board at the Vermont Center for Emerging Technologies. I hope you will all take a moment to introduce yourself to Soraiya and Briar.

Also joining the Board, but not with us today, will be David Aronoff. David is a General Partner at Flybridge Capital Partners. His investment interests and experience include the semiconductor, internet & mobile infrastructure and digital media sectors. He holds a BS in Computer Science from the University of Vermont, an MS in Computer Engineering from the University of Southern California, and an MBA from Harvard Business School.

In closing, let me say again, it has been the privilege of a lifetime to serve on this Board, with Trustees present and past. I will always cherish this experience and the time we have spent together to move our beloved UVM forward.

Thanks to all of you.
This concludes my remarks.

Last modified February 08 2016 03:19 PM