Spring 2020 Report on the Board of Trustees Meeting | St. Lawrence University President's Office

Spring 2020 Report on the Board of Trustees Meeting

Dear Laurentian Friends,

Last Thursday and Friday, the St. Lawrence Board of Trustees met for their Spring gathering via zoom for a pair of two-hour sessions. They shared, of course, in our deep disappointment that we were unable to celebrate the accomplishments of the Class of 2020 in person. We intend to invite the class of 2020 back to campus for its own graduation ceremony once it is safe to do so and in coordination with the University calendar. 

Owing to the current public health crisis, a limited number of board committees met via zoom to conduct essential business, including academic affairs, the committee on trustees, audit, and budget and finance.

On Thursday afternoon, the board, along with faculty, student, and alumni delegates welcomed members of the Experience St. Lawrence Task Force on Institutional Structure, Policy, and Planning and representatives from our advisor Ernst and Young-Parthenon. The Task Force provided findings on their work through May with the next update planned for the annual Board Retreat in June, which will also be in Zoom format. They will host a campus town hall this Thursday May 21 at 3:00 p.m. More details will be provided later this week.

Steve Hietsch, vice president for finance and administration, and Eric Shinnick, executive director of finance, reported on the existing and potential financial impacts of the COVID-19 situation and outlined several possible response actions for the University. 

On Friday morning, I provided the board members with a detailed overview of our planning for the fall. I shared with them information about the New York State and St. Lawrence County public health situation and the numerous inter-locking criteria for phased re-opening, including the work of our five planning teams:

  • Academic program and faculty; university calendar and events; off-campus programs
  • Non-academic programs—athletics, student life, campus capital assets
  • Administration—policies, contracts, staffing levels, and budget
  • Admissions, advancement, and long-term financial (revenue) strategy
  • Campus Safe Occupancy – in-person logistics, restrictions, and new normal measures

The board also received information from Florence Hines, vice president and dean of admissions and financial aid on the status of the first-year class. She reported that St. Lawrence received just over 6,000 applications, and at the moment, 574 students have made deposit commitments. We have increased the number of students in our Early Decision pool, and the academic quality of the incoming class is excellent by all yardsticks. We have also granted a decision deadline extension for more than 200 students until June 1. Our team in admissions and financial aid has done an extraordinary job this year in collaboration with many campus partners under challenging circumstances.  

Tom Pynchon, vice president for university advancement, also provided an update on fundraising, Laurentian engagement, and The Campaign for Every Laurentian, which has raised more than $181 million. That amount represents more than 80% of our campaign goal of $225 million. While we have implemented a “pause” on new fundraising activity, we increased our engagement with alumni and parents through virtual and social media programs. Our advancement team has developed a transition plan to begin more active fundraising soon.

Finally, I want to extend my heartfelt thanks to the entire campus community for its astonishing response to the COVID-19 pandemic during the spring semester. Our faculty and staff have acted in the truest Laurentian spirit with their kind and caring actions as we moved to remote learning and work from home. While there is significant work ahead as we plan our safe return to campus, I trust that you will find time to recharge and rejuvenate during the summer season.

I welcome all your questions or musings at wfox@stlawu.edu anytime. Keep going.

Bill Fox