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Trusting The Trustees: What The Board Does
Margo Downes '16 Associate Editor
December 17, 2014

When students think of the role of the Board of Trustees at Deerfield Academy, many might picture a behind-the-scenes force that controls Deerfield’s management and actions. Many students are not informed about the true nature of the Board of Trustees and its role in student life.

SoThe Board of Trustees consists of 29 members with various skills and qualifications to create a well-rounded Board.

President of the Board of Trustees Rodgin Cohen ‘61 explained what qualifications one must have to become a Trustee: “First, you want to sit down and define your criteria in terms of what backgrounds can be useful for the school.”

Furthermore, Cohen said, “You want people with investment expertise because there is a big endowment to manage. You want people with building expertise because there is a lot of property to oversee. Then, you want people with academic backgrounds, technology backgrounds, art backgrounds, etc.”

Unlike many schools, Deerfield Academy does not require that a Board member must be a graduate of the school. Mr. Cohen explained, “We want to have alumni, but also current and prior parents to bring a different perspective. Often we have several trustees who are neither alumni nor parents, but individuals who can fit the necessary criteria described earlier to help oversee the school.”

The Board of Trustees is currently focused on a number of projects. Cohen said, “One project right now is the renovation of the Boyden Library. More overarching projects [involve] the composition of the student body, the size of the school and even the athletic program.”

The Board of Trustees is responsible for key projects at Deerfield, especially for financial projects, such as setting the budget and fundraising.

Contrary to popular belief among students, the Board of Trustees has little input on day-to-day operations or executive decisions made by the administration. Rather, the Board focuses on overseeing Deerfield’s operations and giving feedback to the administration.

“I deal a lot with the differences between boards and managements: managements manage, boards oversee,” Cohen said. “There is a fine line between oversight of the Board of Trustees and management. The Board only gets involved at the very top level of the administration, but even then it is only an advisory role.”

Dr. Margarita Curtis, Head of School, praised the helpfulness of the Board to Deerfield’s administration and to herself as Head of School. She affirmed, “We are fortunate to have 29 highly talented and committed individuals on our Board, who volunteer their time, resources and expertise generously.”

“Much of the success of our current capital campaign,” Dr. Curtis said, “is a direct result of their indefatigable efforts to raise funds and to provide the financial backing for our projects and aspirations. It is clear to me that every one of our trustees cares deeply about our school—their level of support and commitment is an ongoing source of inspiration for me as Head of School.”