It’s not hard to see the forces that run Lehigh on a daily basis: the faculty and staff, the Sodexo workers and maintenance crews, and the president and administration. But there’s another group that guides Lehigh as a whole through the challenges of today to the potential of tomorrow: the board of trustees.
The board of trustees serves as a resource to the university, said current chairman of the board Brad Eric Scheler, ’74, ‘05P, ‘08P, ‘09PG.
“We facilitate and assist the university in achieving the university’s education mission as evidenced by our extraordinary faculty,” Scheler said. “Trustees have a fiduciary duty to preserve, protect and maximize the value of Lehigh for the current generation and for future generations of students.”
He said there are now 37 members serving on the board, all from various walks of life and professional backgrounds, including finance, the arts, law, technology, and real estate, among others.
Jane P. Jamieson, ’75, vice chair of the board, also pointed out the board’s diversity in age, gender, ethnicity and geographic location.
“It gives a good balance and a lot of different viewpoints and perspectives,” she said.
Most trustees are alumni, but it’s not a requirement, said interim president Kevin Clayton, ’84, ’13P.
“We have a number folks on the board who are not Lehigh alums,” Clayton said. “They add a very unique perspective to the operation of the institution.”
The board has a nominating committee that looks to identify potential members who can add value to the university.
“There’s a nominating process and it’s pretty rigorous, in terms of checking out the qualifications of the folks,” he said. “Our biggest asset is our reputation and we take it very seriously.”
Jamieson said that being a trustee, in addition to having a career, requires a lot of planning. She said it’s necessary for the members to be at a place in their professional and person lives that allows them to put in the time. Clayton also noted that it does take up a lot of time, and that there are a lot of ways to give back and be involved.
Clayton, Jamieson and Scheler all said that the board does not manage the day-to-day operations of the university. Scheler said that is handled by the president, faculty and other members of the senior leadership team.
The board has final approval of the budget, which includes tuition prices, Clayton said. The board also works to better the campus by working to improve buildings and facilities, the learning environment and campus climate.
Clayton said the board meets on campus three times a year. Committees also have regular meetings and he has a management call every Friday morning with Scheler and Jamieson.
As chairman, Scheler said he serves as a sounding board for the president and senior leadership team, as well as presiding at meetings of the board and executive committee.
“Day to day, my goal and objective is to do my very best at all times to enhance Lehigh and to ensure we are providing our students and faculty with the best tools and experience,” Scheler said.
Clayton was a trustee before becoming interim president last summer and said the former experience has helped him tremendously as president.
“I try to facilitate the understanding on both sides of what the needs and requirements are and the manner in which the institution is run,” he said.
Clayton said that the board interacts with students, faculty and administration at all of their meetings. He said by making an effort to involve students allows them to understand how the university is run and what decisions need to be made.
Jamieson said the board has more of a presence on campus than most people realize.
“We’re a very engaged and diverse group of people involved in supporting and advancing the university,” she said. “We’re more accessible than people recognize.”
Two of Scheler’s daughters were students at Lehigh when he first became a board member about 10 years ago. He said they and their friends gave him a refreshed perspective of Lehigh and that having a finger on the pulse of student and faculty experiences are essential to understand and appreciate Lehigh.
One sentiment echoed by Clayton, Jamieson, and Scheler was that each trustee has a love for Lehigh.
“There’s a great passion on the board,” Clayton said. “It’s all about giving back. These aren’t paid positions. We all have the same common goal and that’s to make Lehigh an even better institution.”