As students go to the polls this week to elect a new Young Trustee, I urge you to take seriously this unique opportunity to have a voice in the governance of Duke University. Serving as a Young Trustee brings with it great responsibility, starting with the fact that one is entrusted with making life-altering decisions for a large and complex institution with 13,000 students, 35,000 faculty and staff, 150,000 alumni around the world and billions in assets and investments. It is a position that requires not only commitment to Duke’s highest ideals, but, as current Young Trustee John Harpham noted in a Chronicle interview recently, an enormous amount of work to stay current on all the issues confronting American higher education.
So what does the Board of Trustees itself look for in selecting new members, all of whom are distinguished in their own right as leaders in business, public service, law, medicine and academia, among many other professions represented on the Board?
First, we seek individuals who share a love for Duke University’s mission of education, discovery and service. The University exists to make a difference in the world and, like those who teach and learn on campus every, Trustees play an important role in ensuring that the University can continue to excel in its endeavors.
Second, Trustees have to think broadly, deeply and independently about the sometimes bewildering array of issues, programs, activities and resources that fall under the Duke umbrella. A good Trustee is not an alderman representing a ward or single constituency. Rather, a good Trustee combines his or her personal experiences and relationships with the expertise and perspectives of the rest of the Board to make decisions that can affect every member of the Duke community, and often those far beyond the borders of the campus.
And third, Trustees seek to model the values that attracted them to Duke in the first place: integrity, respect, courage, humility and passion.
I have been fortunate to serve on the Board for almost 12 years, and to work with many undergraduate and graduate Young Trustees. Each has taught me, and my colleagues on the Board, important lessons about the complex lives of today’s students, and the hopes and anxieties they have for Duke. And in turn, we have valued their contributions to deliberations about the future of the University.
Whoever is elected this year, the Board looks forward to welcoming the Young Trustees at their first meeting in the fall.
G. Richard Wagoner, Jr.
Chair of the Duke University Board of Trustees