Simpson’s board of trustees raises money, uses connections

by Jasmynne Sloan

Simpson’s board of trustees has a significant impact on the college, but that impact isn’t always seen by the college community.

“Trustees have such a different relationship with the college than our students do, or our faculty do, or even our staff do,” said Professor of Theatre Jennifer Ross Nostrala. “All of us see the college on a daily basis, but we don’t see the trustees every day.”

Simpson’s board of trustees is made up of 43 men and women whose goal is to offer guidance at the highest level of the institution. Nostrala serves as a faculty representative to the board.

“It’s useful to have some people on the outside looking in because they see us differently,” Nostrala said. “I think from that perspective they can offer valuable advice to the president and the vice presidents – they serve as a sounding board in many ways.”

Big donors

Trustees often help pay for Simpson’s improvements, such as new buildings, renovations or extensions. In fact, the largest donation in Simpson’s history came from a trustee: Amy Robertson, who gave the college $10.5 million.

Not all trustees can give $10.5 million, but they do give a lot of money according to Chris Goodale, the vice president for college advancement.

“The trustees’ giving capacity is generally higher than the average alumnus, but that doesn’t make their gifts any less heart-warming,” he said. “Their dedication and generosity to the college are wonderful. Some of them have served 25 years or more and their giving records are extraordinary.”

One way to quantify how much trustees donate is to look at their gifts to The Simpson Fund. In the fiscal year 2004-2005, trustees contributed more than $200,000 to the Fund. That’s 24 percent of the total gifts to the Fund.

However, according to Goodale that’s just a fraction of what they give overall.

“This number includes only gifts to The Simpson Fund and does not incorporate the very generous support our trustees provide to other areas of campus,” Goodale said.

Making connections

Both Nostrala and Goodale emphasized that Simpson’s trustees do more than just donate money.

Professor of Management Marilyn Mueller agrees with them. She works with the board regularly as the chairperson of the educational policy and curriculum committee.

“I see them in action several times a year and I think the whole institution is better for their contributions,” Mueller said. “I don’t mean just their monetary contributions – their dedication is just amazing. Our present student body is impacted by their dedication, our alumni are impacted and especially our future students are impacted.”

No matter how much the Simpson community is affected by the board of trustees, sometimes their influence is overlooked.

Nostrala pointed out that most students don’t know much about the trustees.

“I don’t think they come into students’ frame of reference very often at all,” she said.

Mueller pointed out that a few students do interact with the board because SGA representatives can attend two board meetings a year as well as different committee meetings.

“There are opportunities for students to have their voices heard by the trustees,” Mueller said.

At the same time, Nostrala would like more students to meet the board members.

“I think trustees should get to know more students,” she said. “If they talk to students and find out what they’re doing and what they need, they’ll become more passionate about this college and what we’re doing here.”

Raising money

Not only do Simpson’s trustees donate their own money to the college, they also solicit donations from people they know. According to Nostrala, knowing more students would help the board of trustees raise money.

“It can be hard to connect to the general story about how great Simpson is,” she said. “But if they tell someone about a single student who has impacted the community, their story becomes personal.”

Nostrala said at one Endowment Management Committee of the board meeting she attended, each member was asked to come up with 10 people they knew who might be able to help fund Simpson’s latest projects. She said this network is crucial.

“Many times trustees have connections to people who have the ability to help finance the college in the future,” Nostrala said. “When they activate those connections it breathes life into the college.”

Mueller said Simpson’s board of trustees deserves recognition for all of its efforts.

“I think the trustees genuinely want to improve the future and one of the best ways to do that is to make a difference in the lives of college students,” she said. “They do make significant financial contributions that have long-lasting effects, but they also give of their time and knowledge. They’re very busy people and I’m glad we have them as an integral part of our institution.”