The Fort Lewis College Board of Trustees in March 2010; from left to right: John Wells, Leonel Silva, Charles Riggs, Karen Wilde, Richard Ballantine, Heidi Baskfield, Brian Bissell, Michelle Kenney, and Peter Decker. Today's Board includes Matthew Wassam in place of Bissell and Natalie Janes in place of Kenney.
If Fort Lewis has had a history of being led by its students, then that legacy just expanded to include former students, as well. For the first time in the history of the Fort Lewis College Board of Trustees, a majority of the voting members of the group are alumni of the college they oversee.
In January, Matthew Wassam (Business Administration, '98) became the fourth alumni among the seven voting members on the Board, joining John Wells (Business Administration, '78), Leonel Silva (Sociology/Human Services, ‘74), and Heidi (Van Huysen) Baskfield (Political Science, '98). Also on the Board are Richard Ballantine, Peter Decker, Karen Wilde, and non-voting members Charles Riggs (faculty representative) and Natalie Janes (student representative).
"Alumni bring to the Board an understanding of the school and its students because of having spent time on campus," says Wassam. "There's a distinctive culture and spirit at Fort Lewis that you can only really know after having been there for years," he adds.
Matthew Wassam is the newest alumni
addition to the Board of Trustees.
Prior to the creation of the Board of Trustees, the State Board of Agriculture had governed Fort Lewis since it first became an agricultural high school in 1911. In June 2002, Colorado Governor Bill Owens signed legislation that approved a stand-alone Board of Trustees for Fort Lewis College, with members appointed by the Governor with State Senate confirmation. Today the Board makes policy for Fort Lewis College and oversees its operation.
"The alumni on the Board of Trustees are smart, involved, supportive, and helpful," says President Dene Kay Thomas, adding, "But so are the non-alums. I am lucky to have such a great Board!"
While, as President Thomas notes, all board members are praiseworthy, the alumni members nonetheless offer the Board unique and valuable experience and insights that only former students have access to.
Wells, a Board member since February 2010, explains that the value of alumni on the Board is less about power and more about perspective. "We are not political in nature, thank God!" he laughs. "Yet the passion that alumni have for the college is big. For alumni, the desire to assist the College to grow and have excellent student experiences, top staff and faculty, good pay and benefits, additional buildings and improvements when necessary, is based on a passion for the excellence of the institution."
The alumni members also bring to the Board a breadth of on-campus leadership -- including a former student-body president, a co-founder of ASFLC, an officer in the Business Club, and an executive director for the Colorado Student Association -- as well as a depth of professional experience -- individual entrepreneurship, business ownership, a hospital directorship, service as a Durango mayor and on the city council, and even a Durango Citizen of the Year award -- that serves them, and the College they themselves serve, well.
That sort of passion and experience is not only useful, though, points out Baskfield. It is also timely.
"I think alumni have a special love of Fort Lewis, and so spend their time serving the school because of a clear desire to make Fort Lewis the best liberal arts college in the West," explains Baskfield. "With the State of Colorado facing very difficult economic times, we need people who understand how to influence decision-makers on those topics that have a significant impact on Fort Lewis. I believe I possess that understanding, and I plan to put it to good use."
Learn more about the Fort Lewis College Board of Trustees here.