An important transition in the leadership of the College’s Board of Trustees will occur in June of 2014, as the six-year term of Greg Avis ’80 as Chair of the Board will come to an end, marking the beginning of the term of his successor, Michael Eisenson ’77 .
Avis served on the Board of Trustees for 12 years and played an important role in helping the College successfully navigate the financial recession and the appointment of a new president. He also ensured the advance of many on-campus construction projects impeded by the recession. Avis’ efforts led to the successful completion of Hollander and Schapiro Halls, both of which were awarded LEED Gold Status by 2010 by the U.S. Green Building Council, as well as the resumption of construction of the Stetson-Sawyer and Weston Field construction projects. These developments occurred despite the financial problems faced by the College in the aftermath of the 2008 economic downturn. As President Falk remarked in a letter addressed to the community, over the years Avis has, “devoted a great deal of time to getting to know faculty, staff and students.”
Avis reflected on his term, commending the collaborative efforts of the Board. “If I was to comment on any accomplishment during my tenure, it would be the office’s team effort,” Avis said. “Some of the things we accomplished were steering the College through the financial crisis of ’08-’09 and facilitating the presidential transition with Adam Falk. We are pleased to have the College on solid financial ground more than other colleges who have had similar financial troubles.”
His successor as chair, Eisenson, has been actively involved with the College since 2001 and a Board member since 2007. During his time on the Board, Eisenson has taken up leadership roles instrumental to his class’s 25th reunion, the College’s most recent large-scale fundraising campaigns, the creation of the Williams Investment Office and the successes of the Investment Committee, of which he served as chair.
“In my view and in its simplest terms, the mission of the board is to support the College in attracting and retaining the best faculty and staff, so that we can continue to attract and train the best students, who we hope will go on to have a real impact on the world,” Eisenson said speaking from his experience witnessing the ways in which the Board of Trustees assists the College in accomplishing its mission.
In upcoming years, the College community is set to confront new issues concomitant to living in an increasingly technology-dependent time. These issues include student privacy and the debate surrounding popularizing higher education online, through tools like Coursera and EdX as well as peer insitutions such as Harvard and Yale offering free courses online. Such matters, remarked Eisenson, are increasingly in the dialogue and on the minds of the College’s leadership. Assuring students’ privacy, especially with the large amount of information collected through Williams Students Online, college-operated facebook pages and Peoplesoft, “is an issue that I know is being continually studied by members of the College administration,” said Eisenson.
Another facet of college life that the Board will be seeking to address is engagement with the larger Berkshire community. “I think that the recognition that the College is fundamentally a part of the broader Williamstown and Northern Berkshires community and that each is critically important to the other is perhaps in greater focus today than it has been at some points in the past,” Eisenson said.
Eisenson lauded the changes over recent years that, in his opinion, have transformed the College into a heterogeneous incubator of talent, knowledge and creativity. “I am really looking forward to working with President Falk and the unusually dedicated group who are the Trustees, to build on the work of the last several decades that has left Williams in such a strong and sound position,” said Eisenson. “I am sure the College will continue to evolve in the coming years – hopefully only in positive ways, but also likely in increments that will build on, and not displace, the important traditions we’ve all enjoyed.”