Serving Together: Relationship between Board of Trustees and President
Recently, the board of trustees met on the campus of Hannibal-LaGrange University for their bi-annual full board meeting. It was a particularly eventful time punctuated with some important highlights: faculty/staff picnic, dedication of renovated dorm space, and approval of budget and capital campaign. Many university boards meet and leave without much fanfare, except for an occasional controversial issue or tuition rate increase that gets highlighted in the local paper, but there is much more going on behind the scenes to ensure the integrity, mission, and purpose of the university is accomplished. I’m am often asked about the relationship between the board of trustees and the president. So for those who want to know, here is a brief description of the work of the board and its relationship with the president.
The most important task facing a board of trustees of a university is the selection of a president. One of the most daunting aspects of that selection is the search for candidates who possess the qualifications, qualities, skills, work ethic, and knowledge of what needs to be done. Once the selection is made, the president’s job as the chief executive officer of the institution is to see the institution’s activities and programs are carried out in a manner consistent with the university’s stated, board-adopted mission and purpose. The president is accountable to the board of trustees, and the board is responsible for setting policy and evaluating the president to see that policies and any board procedures are followed. The president is responsible for the oversight for all functions within the life of the university, and is responsible to see that the university complies with the standards and expectation of those entities to which the university relates (accrediting agencies, federal and state agencies, etc.).
In addition, the president is responsible for hiring, making recommendations to the board of trustees regarding organizational structure of the institution, delegating authority to those in the organization who are responsible for various function of the university, and strategic planning and implementation of mission, vision, goals and objectives that promote the university’s growth, progress, and achievement. The president is responsible to ensure that the resources of the university are managed in accordance with board of trustee policies and reports regularly to the board regarding the fiscal well-being of the institution, including necessary fund raising to meet the needs of the university.
Finally, the president is the face of the institution. After the meetings are over and the gavel is struck in conclusion, the work of the university continues and the task of higher education moves forward. Several years ago, in conducting research at a research-extensive university, I asked a university president to describe for me the work of the president and he said, “I’m a billboard for the institution. Every waking moment, I am advertising for the university.” This was a good word to a young administrator who aspired to serve in Christian higher education. At the end of the day, the university president embodies the mission, history, heritage, and Christian culture of the university on the campus and to all publics.