University of Vermont

Board of Trustees


Robert F. Cioffi
Board of Trustees, Chair's Report
November 7, 2012

Good morning everyone, and welcome to this rather unusual Wednesday version of our Board of trustees meeting. I trust that we all got a good night's sleep last night after following the election returns, and in the spirit of bipartisanship I will hereby offer my congratulations to President elect Obama without further comment.

Of course I would also be remiss if I did not congratulate our colleagues who won their elections last evening. In fact, I believe we have victories by all of those running so congratulations to all of you and we are glad that you will be in Montpelier to continue your work on behalf of Vermont and UVM. Let me also congratulate Governor Shumlin on his re-election and say that we look forward to continuing our work together.

This is Tom Sullivan's first full Board of Trustees meeting since officially assuming the UVM Presidency, and as Chair I would like to publicly welcome Tom to the Board. We look forward to a long and fruitful relationship together, working on issues, challenges, and opportunities that are important to the present and future health of the University.

So though this is his first official Board Meeting, Tom has been here nearly four months as President and he is off to a very good start. He has traveled some 1,600 miles around Vermont, visiting every county in the state and interacting with business, governmental, and community leaders and alumni on matters pertaining to UVM and Vermont. He has traveled extensively outside of Vermont as well, seeing a variety of alumni, donors, and friends of UVM and helping to lay the groundwork along with the Foundation for our upcoming fundraising campaign.

In addition, Tom has spent a great deal of time on and near campus meeting with students, faculty, deans, administrators, local municipal officials, neighbors, law enforcement, business leaders, and other key constituencies. I believe that Tom has learned a great deal about the people, culture, and environment of Vermont, and everyone has learned a great deal about the character, approachability, and priorities of our President. All in all, a great beginning. I know that we have time on our Board agenda later today for Tom to share with us some of his thoughts on strategic planning and I look forward to the Board engaging with Tom on this important discussion both today and throughout his Presidency.

And part of that beginning occurred on Friday, October 5th, with the formal Installation of Tom Sullivan as President. I was there, and can report that it was a most memorable day for the University of Vermont, and it was a delight to have former Vice President Walter F. Mondale join us for the celebration. The good feelings and optimism about Tom, Leslie and our entire institution could be seen and felt everywhere - and I expect we can keep it going.

With new leadership comes new opportunities, and the chance to look at things a bit differently and do things differently as well. I know that Tom understands and appreciates the great attributes of UVM and plans to build on them. I also know that he will be sharing some of his most important priorities and areas of focus in his upcoming remarks.

For my part as Chair, I want to say how impressed I am about the progress we have made together as a University community. I am also impressed with the plans that have been carefully considered and articulated, and are now ready to be implemented. And while planning and discussion are important, the most important thing is making those plans a reality. Taking action. Getting them done. As Chair, it is my sincere hope - no, let me state this more strongly - my clear expectation that we are entering a time of action, where we make the decisions and changes we must make in order to be sustainable and to thrive as an outstanding research university. And although I recognize that at a university the time for talking is never over ( I often think back to former UVM President Lattie Coor who used to say that Universities have processes, unfortunately they are often glacial processes) but let me state emphatically that the time for action has clearly arrived. Let us embrace it, and continue our hard work together to ensure a bright future for UVM. We have a highly skilled new leader who is ready to work with this community to move this university forward and we need to support his efforts in every way possible.

In February, I will enter my final year on the Board and I want to highlight an area which I will personally be working with the administration on to ensure is part of that action plan. It is an area that was highlighted often during our retreat in September and I believe it is something that has the potential to set UVM apart from our peers. This is managing and measuring not only our inputs (standardized test scores, class rank, acceptance rates, etc.) but also our outputs (student satisfaction, learning outcomes, employability, etc.). As a University, I believe it is imperative that our students conclude their studies at UVM with the necessary tools to compete in today's marketplace and the knowledge and skills to adapt to an environment where the pace of change is in a state of constant acceleration. And, of course, the ability to provide leadership and make a real difference in the future.

As always, we have a full agenda, and I want to wrap this up quickly. But before I do I want to mention two recent members of our Board of Trustees whom we have lost, both of whom passed away all too soon.

Stirling A. Winder died on July 28, 2012 after a long and courageous battle with cancer. She was just 26 years old. As a student, a varsity athlete, a Trustee, a volunteer, and a friend and colleague she approached life with a strong sense of optimism and positive energy that lifted the spirits of everyone around her. The courage and strength she showed all of us in facing so many serious health challenges were truly inspirational.

Susan Hudson-Wilson, who passed away suddenly and unexpectedly at the age of 60 on Oct. 5, 2012, while traveling in Nairobi, Kenya. We will all remember Susan as a vibrant, outspoken, one-of-a-kind person who lived life to the fullest, and who clearly cared deeply about UVM.

The Board extends our profound condolences to their families, and I ask that we stand in a moment of silence in remembrance of Stirling and Susan.

I want to also mention the events of last week involving Hurricane Sandy, that thankfully left Vermont mostly unscathed compared to Irene but wreaked havoc especially on the states of New Jersey, New York and Connecticut. Many of the towns where our students and their families live have been severely impacted, with power still out and damage at an almost unimaginable level. All of those impacted are in our thoughts and prayers, and I hope that each of us will do what we are able to do to help in the recovery efforts.

In closing, I want to thank all of you for your efforts on behalf of our University. We have lots more to do, and I look forward to getting on with meeting the challenges ahead.

This concludes my report.

Last modified September 21 2013 06:48 AM