A member of the first cohort of women admitted to Franklin & Marshall College will now be the first alumna to lead the institution as chair of its board of trustees.
Susan L. Washburn of the Class of 1973 was the unanimous choice of her fellow board members voting in executive session during the first day of their annual fall meeting on campus Thursday, Oct. 15. She will begin serving as board chair on July 1, 2016, succeeding Lawrence I. Bonchek, M.D., P'91, who on June 30 will conclude his second three-year term as chair.
"It will be an extraordinary pleasure for me to work with Sue, who will continue the practice of effective and principled board leadership in support of F&M's mission that our current chair, Larry Bonchek, embodies," said President Daniel R. Porterfield.
First elected to the board in 1995 and currently a vice chair, Washburn has served with distinction for almost two decades. She is also widely known and respected within the international higher education community as founding principal of Washburn & McGoldrick Inc., a strategic planning, development, marketing and governance consultancy based in Latham, N.Y., and as the former chair of the international board of trustees of the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE).
She has served previously as a vice president of St. Lawrence University, Centenary College, and The Evergreen State College, leading highly successful fundraising campaigns at each and becoming a much-sought expert in campaign planning, volunteer engagement, and donor motivation. She has also served as a vice president for administration and finance.
But throughout her distinguished career, extensive travels and engagements with scores of colleges and universities in the United States, United Kingdom and Australia, F&M has remained a constant touchpoint.
"Coming to Franklin & Marshall was a transformative experience for me," said Washburn, who arrived on campus in the fall of 1969 among some 125 other young women who would change the face of the previously all-male college.
"I was the first in my family to go to college," she recalls. "I came here on a Classics scholarship and met incredibly smart students and inspirational faculty members, people like Professor Robert Russell, who was blind. He taught me about notable British writers and how to hear their voices in their writing. Geology Professor John Moss taught me how to sharpen my awareness of the natural world. In courses like these and many others, I learned how to learn. For that I'm forever grateful.
"And now, to have an even greater opportunity to help make ongoing investments in the students of today, who are going to be the global citizens of our future, to continue to advocate for the liberal arts in the public space, and to continue to invest in superb faculty, the next generations of Robert Russells … It's very exciting."
Originally, the schedule to identify a new chair planned for the selection to occur during the board's quarterly winter meeting in February.
"The outpouring of support for Sue during our nomination process was so overwhelming that this time, we were able to bring a recommendation to the board early, which will assist with transition planning," reported John Burness '67, chair of the board's Trusteeship and Governance Committee, which coordinates the selection process. Representatives of the committee — in this case including Reed Auerbach, Esq., '80, Patti Harris '77, Robert Smith '60 P'89, H. Art Taylor, Esq., '80 and Linda Yarden '81 — asked each member of the board to describe the primary qualities and characteristics desirable in a board chair, and to indicate who they believe would make a good candidate.
"Sue stood out not only in terms of experience and leadership, but also as a very generous, dynamic and thoughtful person who cares deeply about students and the College," Burness said.
"A discernable thread runs through her commitment to F&M, from her very first full-time job working in what was then the College Investments office when she was still a senior, to her service on multiple board committees and her personal philanthropy benefiting our students," Porterfield added.
"Sue has had tremendous influence on making the college she loves the institution it is today — national leader in liberal arts education and a welcoming and supportive place for talented students from every segment of society. It is exciting to imagine the developments yet to come at F&M with Sue in her new role as board chair, and I look forward to extending both a great personal friendship and our work together on behalf of the College."
In addition to her current role as board vice chair, Washburn heads the Compensation Committee and serves on the Executive, Marketing and Communications, and Trusteeship and Governance Committees. She chaired the Advancement Committee from 2003 to 2008, the Enrollment Committee from 2012 to 2014, and the Presidential Search Committee in 2010.
"During the past 20 years as a trustee, Sue has earned the admiration of the entire board as a tireless and highly effective colleague, especially when asked to take on exceptionally important responsibilities," said current Board of Trustees Chair Larry Bonchek. "At the top of that list, I would put her service as chair of the search committee that brought Dan Porterfield to Franklin & Marshall. As a consultant for higher education institutions around the world, she has also given us the benefit of her expertise on a range of challenging and sometimes sensitive issues. Whenever we have needed a sure and steady hand, clear perspective and sound judgment, we have always been able to turn to Sue."
Washburn's extensive experience on the board also includes service on the Long-Range Strategic Planning Committee, for which she was vice chair from 1998 until 2002, as well as the Academic Investments, Alumni Programs and Development, and Buildings, Grounds and Sustainability Committees. She was a member of the 2001-02 Presidential Search Committee, and served on the Campaign Executive Committee from 1992 to 2002.
Adding to her bachelor's degree in English from Franklin & Marshall, Washburn earned a master's degree in management and marketing from Clarkson University and has completed advanced study at Harvard University's Institute for Educational Management.
She lives in downtown Lancaster with her partner, Kristin Rehder, a writer, editor, and documentary photographer.