Posted September 7, 2012 by Timothy Reed 

I'm on the Board of Trustees?

After putting my name in the hat a number of times to be elected to the Board of Trustees, I finally got that call that said, “You’re in!”

Now what?

I prepared for my first meeting at the annual conference in Boston by reading and reflecting on what the term “trustee” means. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a trustee is “one who is trusted, or to whom something is entrusted; a person in whom confidence is put.” The root word is trust. The members, or at least those who voted for me, placed their confidence in me that I would represent the best interests of this association as I discharge my duties. More importantly to me is that I was chosen by the members of this association. Not by fellow board members and not by some secret panel creating a nominating slate. I have been entrusted, along with the other members, to make decisions in the best interest of our association.

I like the term trustee. In higher education, we have boards of governors, directors, regents, and visitors. While all of those may be used interchangeably, only trustee implies in the name the relationship between the governing and the governed. Shakespeare wrote, “Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none.” This is an apt phrase for those of us in student unions and student activities. You place your trust in the few of us that must do the best for the members.

It is no accident that trustees have limited terms and proscribed scope. It is not our role to be trusted for life with our duties. The rotation of trustees and presidents on fixed terms brings new perspective to the table each year. The balance to that never ending stream of new ideas and perspective is a stable and equally trusted professional staff.

Just as you trust us to provide guidance and direction to the professional staff and volunteers that manage the affairs of the association, we place our trust in the executive director, who truly manages the staff. ACUI has trusted Marsha Herman-Betzen to carry out her duties since 1994. In that time, we have been through restructuring and reorganizing; membership decline and growth; budget crises and fiscal bounty; annual conference growth and regional conference decline; and many other challenges and successes. Through all of the highs and lows of ACUI, the bond between board, volunteers, and staff has remained.

Like all relationships, there have been times of doubt. I was one of many vocal members concerned about the direction of the Association a decade ago. A number of members voiced our concerns in the face of decisions made by members of the board and ultimately the Association. While we experienced frustration and even anger, our confidence in the process and the members of the board to do the right thing for the Association never wavered. I believe that made us a better association in the end.

Now, I am one of those members “on the inside” at a time when we face the challenge of change. I am not here because of some mysterious process or inside track. I volunteered to serve. I was nominated by colleagues who trust my judgment and believe I can contribute. I was chosen by the membership, and you have placed your confidence in me in the same way I trusted the board members years ago—not blindly, but with passion and vigorous debate.

So I will serve the Association with assurance that I am here “do the right thing” and not just do things right. And I will ask you, when you are called, will you serve?

This is the first in a series of posts by Tim Reed about being on the ACUI Board of Trustees.

Timothy Reed

Timothy Reed is the Associate Executive Director for Business and Membership Services at Omicron Delta Kappa.

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