The current chair of Duke’s Board of Trustees reflected on his tenure during Thursday’s Academic Council meeting, the final of the 2020-21 academic year.
Jack Bovender, Trinity ‘67, Graduate School ‘69 and outgoing chair of the Board of Trustees, will end his term as chair on July 1. He will be succeeded by Laurene Sperling, Trinity ‘78, who has served as vice chair since 2017 and will be the first woman to serve as chair.
Bovender, who has served on the Board of Trustees since 2007 and has been chair for the past four years, spoke about his pride in the University in the face of the pandemic and looked back on important Duke successes during his tenure.
“I want to thank you, all of you on the Academic Council and representatives of the faculty, for the extraordinary ways that the faculty has met the great challenges of this moment and continues to sustain and transform the Duke experience,” Bovender said.
In 2017 and 2018, near the beginning of Bovender’s chairmanship, the Board of Trustees conducted a review of the University’s governance system. The review resulted in the current governance system, which aims to facilitate more interaction between the Board and other members of the Duke community.
Bovender explained that since the implementation of the new governance structure during the 2018-2019 academic year, the Board has formed task forces focused on advancing Duke’s science and technology, next-generation living and learning, the future of Central Campus and advancing the global network.
During the 2019-20 term, the Board created a yearlong strategic education and engagement program centered on the issues of research translation and the commercialization of Durham. The latter effort “will only continue with, of course, exciting news that Apple is opening a nice, cozy headquarters in Research Triangle Park,” Bovender said.
This academic year, the Board operated under a hybrid model, with both task forces and a strategic education program. This year’s task forces concentrated on climate change and sustainability, the Duke-Durham relationship and Duke’s centennial celebration. Strategic education sessions focused on Duke’s anti-racism agenda, Duke’s finance and Duke Health. A final strategic education session this month will concern Duke faculty, Bovender said.
Next year, the Board will run a yearlong strategic and engagement session looking at Duke’s brand and the future of higher education, Bovender added.
Upon being asked to name the biggest challenge he faced during his time as a trustee, Bovender reflected that Duke often “punches above [its weight].”
“We don’t have the size of the endowments that some of our peer institutions have, but yet we have accomplished a lot with the financial resources [we do have], a top university both in this country and worldwide. And I think we can be proud. The question is, how do we sustain that?”
Kerry Haynie, outgoing chair of the Academic Council, thanked Bovender for his service to the University and emphasized the importance of Duke’s system of shared governance.
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“We are full members of those committees, with a voice and a vote. And that’s somewhat unique as these things go, as faculty governance goes around the country, that our trustees have taken seriously the notion of shared governance,” Haynie said.
In other business
Representatives from Trinity College of Arts and Sciences, Pratt School of Engineering and Duke’s graduate and professional schools recommended their candidates for earned degrees, which will be considered by the Board of Trustees at their Friday meeting.
Including undergraduate and graduate students, about 1,229 degree candidates in the Trinity were presented, as well as 334 students in Pratt. The Nicholas School of the Environment, Fuqua School of Business, Duke Divinity School, Law School, School of Medicine, School of Nursing, Sanford School of Public Policy and Graduate School also presented recommended candidates for earned degrees.
President Vincent Price, who was present at the meeting, approved the degrees.
The Academic Council also voted to approve an April proposal from Sanford to create a new master’s degree program in national security policy.
Members of the Academic Programs Committee, the University Priorities Committee and the Athletic Council responded to questions about their year-end reports.