Questions about college trustees, endowed chairs, etc.

While talking last night, Crunchy was bouncing some ideas and questions off of me about his novel. And in the brainstorming, some questions came up about private college Trusteeships and Chairs (at least, that’s what I remember them being called when large amounts of money were given to one particular department by an individual) I didn’t know all the specifics on how this worked, and neither did CF. So, since he’s busy putting words on paper, he asked me to put the questions forth here for him instead. (Since he knows I have nothing better to do than lurker around the board all day… then again, I did mention something about thinking my post count was a little low right before that. Maybe he’s just trying to build up my count… Nah! :wink: )

Here are some of the questions that came to mind:

What is the difference between a Trusteeship and a Chair?
What exactly is a Trusteeship, and what exactly is a Chair? (and from TruePisces - Did you have to have been affiliated with Florida Southern College to know what a chair is, in respect to money for a department, or is this something common to all colleges???!!!)
What’s the process that one needs to go through if they want to donate large amounts of money to a particular department at the college?
If a corporation wants to donate large amounts of money to a college (especially to a specific department), do they go a different route to donate than an individual would, and would their monetary donation be called something different than that of an individual?

Those are the only ones I can think of at the moment, though I know there are probably more. I’ll wrack my brain to see what I’ve forgotten. In the mean time…


Colleges and Universities are governed by a board, most commonly called the Board of Trustees. Board of Regents is another term. The Board of Trustees is similar to the Board of Directors for a corporation, with the President of the college acting as the CEO. The Board sets overall policy for the college. It’s made of up of a mixture of people based on the guidelines set by the Board. Generally, the trustees are alumni, parents, business people, philanthropist, and other prominent individuals. The previous school I worked at was an Augustinian school, so a number of Trustees were priests. Trustees serve for a set term and replacements are appointed by the Board.
There are two types of academic Chairs. The most common is the head of an academic department (e.g., the chair of the math department). This person is responsible for the operation of the department, though the chair is not a full manager of the faculty in the department, more of a coordinator. The other type of chair is a special faculty appointment, which can be permanent or for a set term. These chairs are typically endowed (i.e., funded by a large gift, not through yearly operating budgets).

What’s the process that one needs to go through if they want to donate large amounts of money to a particular department at the college?

That’s generally very easy. Almost every school (probably 100%) has one or more offices that handle fundraising. The typical names for these offices are either Development or Advancement. Depending on the size of the institution, there could be many different people who would handle large gifts depending on the size and type (cash, stock, planned giving, etc.)

If a corporation wants to donate large amounts of money to a college (especially to a specific department), do they go a different route to donate than an individual would, and would their monetary donation be called something different than that of an individual?

Most colleges have someone who handles corporate fundraising. Smaller schools may not. The donation would be treated exactly the same as an individual’s would.

As you may guess, this is the field I work in. If you want to contact me with more questions, feel free to email me. If you really want to know the ins-and-outs, you can make a big contribution, and we’ll be happy to go through everything with you. :slight_smile:

Perhaps this is a nitpick, but both the state and private school that I’ve been affiliated with (and also all the state schools at least in Texas) have it slightly differently than described here.

The Board of Regents/Trustees does, indeed, set the policy for the school, but they are typically chaired not by the President of the school, but by a Chancellor.

Public school systems (like the UT system, or the Texas State University system) have one Board of Regents or Trustees that oversee all the colleges in that system, so we all share a Chancellor–but each University has its own President. Even the private school I’m familiar with–although the only one in its “system”–still had a separate Chancellor and President.

And, generally, the Board of Regents doesn’t so much “set” policy for the University as affirm policy. Usually, the President and his/her VP’s and Deans and their Chairs set the policy and the Board approves or rejects it. The Board of Regents approves everything from minor changes to the college catalog to faculty pay-raises to accepting donations. It’s a formality, but generally a large donation isn’t official until the Board sez it is.

Not really a nitpick, more of an expansion on what I was saying. I didn’t get into the larger state systems that you describe since I don’t have direct experience with them, and TruePisces asked about private colleges. You’re correct that the President doesn’t chair (here’s another use of the word “chair”) the Board, but the President does act as the CEO, which is what I said. The person who does chair the Board is typically called either the Chancellor or the Chair. I think the terminology depends on the background of the institution. This person is actually a member of the Board, whereas the President is not.

As for “setting” policy, you’re right. The relationship between the Board, the administration, the faculty, the students, and the alumni can get pretty complicated and varies from place to place. All these groups play a role in setting policy. And state schools add another layer as do some religious-based institutions. How much detail the Board gets into depends on how much they want to get into.

The only real issue I have with anything you said is this:

Typically, there are a very limited number of donations that would actually require Board approval. The three instances I can think of are: 1) a controversial donor, 2) restrictions on the donation that might not meet the needs of the school, and 3) an unusually donation (say, a luxury yatch) that the school may not want. That’s not to say that individual institutions don’t have policies that donations over a certain amount must be approved by the Board, but I don’t think this is common.

A private college or university is typically set up like any other charitable foundation, with a board of trustees (or similar designation) controlling the overall direction and policy of the organization. The board of trustees is usually made up primarily of prominent alumni who have a tradition of institutional support (read give big bucks), though others may be invited on the board. The board usually elects one of their members to serve as chair (chairman/woman) of the board of the trustees.

The day-to-day operations of the university are typically overseen by the president (sometimes chancellor or other title) of the university. The president is selected by the board of trustees, an employee of the university, and rarely a member of the board. (Note that in British Commonwealth countries the equivalent position is usually Vice Chancellor, with the Chancellor serving in a largely ceremonial role – think Queen and Prime Minister).

In an academic setting, there are typically scores of committees, boards, and similar panels, each of which usually has a chair (e.g. chair of the faculty senate). Also, academic departments and programs will often have a professor designated as the administrative head, and he or she is usually known as department chair.

If a donor (whether corporate or individual) wishes to make a gift, the donor may designate it as unrestricted or restricted to a specific purpose (or part unrestricted and part restricted). If a gift is unrestricted it may be applied (under the overall direction of the board of trustees) to any purpose of the organization.

If a gift is restricted, it must be used only for the purposes for which it was given. Common restricted gifts include scholarships for particular purposes, gifts to a particular department or program, and endowed academic chairs.

An chair is an academic position that has a specific endowment behind it. To be awarded an academic chair is both considered a great honor for a professor and usually has financial rewards in additional salary, research funds, or both. If you hear of an academic referred to as the Johnson Professor of Basketweaving Technology or the XYZ Inc. Professor of Applied Moneygrubbing, that professor holds an endowed chair. The donor will usually designate the academic area that the chair will be for, and the university will designate the occupant (though if the donor has a strong suggestion for the initial occupant, the donor’s wishes will be at least listened to).

In addition to specific academic chairs, in some schools, a professor may be designated as a “University Professor” or similar designation. This is sort of like a roving academic chair that the trustees can award to any deserving academic.

Moderator’s note: I changed the thread title to reflect the subject matter.

Right. I mentioned state schools, but their structure is (or, frequently is) similar–at least, similar to the private school with which I am familiar. Your analogy to the President being the “CEO” otherwise is a good one. May as well mention that the University VP’s are commonly a VP of Business Affairs (“CFO”) and a VP of Academic Affairs (“COO”).

I agree. I would’ve done better to say that the Board simply officially “acknowledges” all contributions, but only rarely takes issue with them.