SWENSON | Inside the Boardroom

Cornell’s Board of Trustees has 64 voting members, which is the largest in the Ivy-League and the composition is unique among all institutions of higher education. There are representatives from the student, employee, faculty and alumni constituencies of Cornell, as well as from the State of New York, including the governor, and from the fields of labor and agriculture. There is also one Life-Trustee which is reserved for the eldest lineal descendant of Ezra Cornell, and is currently held by Ezra Cornell ’70. Other Trustees arise from accomplished backgrounds in finance, law, architecture, medicine and real estate, among others.

The Board of Trustees is “vested with supreme control” over the University, which means that all aspects of Cornell, including hiring the president, approving the operating budget or constructing buildings are governed by the 64 voting members. Though, the board continues to uphold the leadership philosophy that was cultivated under the guidance of the late Frank H.T. Rhodes, Cornell’s 9th President. He said: 

“The role of a Trustee is to govern, not to manage. They stick their noses in to inquire, but they keep their fingers out of the execution. They are supportive, not meddling.”