The Erskine College and Theological Seminary Board of Trustees convened Friday for its first meeting of 2011. The collegial mood matched the unseasonably warm weather as themes of reconciliation and reclamation of Erskine’s core mission set the tone.
Board chairman Scott Mitchell opened the proceedings and said Erskine is “poised for a renaissance” over the next few years.
Dr. Steve Lowe, whom the board confirmed as interim vice president for Erskine Seminary later in the day, gave the opening devotional. Lowe called the board’s attention to Matthew 5:23-24, in which Jesus instructs his followers to “go and be reconciled” to an offended brother prior to engaging in worship.
Erskine President Dr. David Norman’s opening comments followed a similar theme of circumspect optimism.
“We face significant challenges,” Norman admitted. “But the good news is that the solutions are within our grasp.”
“We have an outstanding mission,” he continued, “to equip students to flourish as whole persons.”
Looking ahead to the most anticipated agenda item, Norman said, “You will hear a well-crafted proposal from the bylaws committee. I ask you to review it carefully and pass substantial changes quickly.”
The board would wait until later in the morning to hear from the bylaws committee, which was organized last year to address issues of governance and relationship with the college’s sponsoring denomination, the Associate Reformed Presbyterian (ARP) Church.
The proposed revisions, designed to strengthen and enhance the bylaws by bringing more clarity and consistency to the board’s governance, addressed five areas: indemnification of trustees, conflict of interest, undue influence, appointment process for trustees and board size.
The committee made clear that it would not ask for any action on the proposed changes at this time, but would wait until all necessary parties have had sufficient time for review and reflection.
A new process for vetting and approving trustee candidates was proposed that entails a more collaborative effort with the General Synod of the ARP Church, the body that appoints trustees to Erskine’s board.
Additionally, the committee recommended a transition plan to coincide with a proposed reduction in board size over the next several years.
To ensure a board makeup in keeping with Erskine’s needs, the committee also recommended a needs analysis and candidate-matching process that dovetails with the proposed revisions.
The committee described their working together as agreeable and highly productive. In closing comments to the report, Dr. Randy Folks of Columbia stressed that the central themes in all the proposed revisions were:
- Integrity and self-government
- Responsibility to Erskine’s mission
- More efficient and effective governance
- Providing the board with gifted members
The work of the bylaws committee was commended by numerous trustees. An official word of thanks to the committee members was submitted to the minutes by motion of Alumni Association President David Chesnut of Decatur, Ga.
In other business:
- The board approved a measure to allow the administration to address tuition adjustments and potential salary increases while waiting until the May meeting to formally approve the budget for 2011-12. Greg Haselden, Erskine’s vice president for finance and operations, reported that for 2010-11 Erskine is working toward its fifth straight year with a balanced budget.
- A gift of an annuity was received to support the Mr. and Mrs. Bert Keck
Seminary Scholarship Fund in the Endowment Fund.
- The academic committee reported a successful visit from SACS representatives following a recently completed monitoring report.
- The board approved the granting of degrees to students approved by the faculty for graduation from both the college and seminary.
- The committee on board policy deferred its report to the May meeting.
- Officers for next year’s board were approved. They are Joe Patrick, chair; Bill Cain, vice chair; and Max Bolin, secretary.