Rosengren ’79 announced as next board chair

On September 4, the College announced in a press release that Eric Rosengren ’79, P’12 will be the next chairman of the Board of Trustees. The an- nouncement, which was also de- livered to students in an Official Notice from President David A. Greene, came after a unanimous vote from the board.

Rosengren is the president and chief executive officer of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, where, according to the Bank’s website, he began working in 1985 as an economist in the research department. Rosengren has been refining his expertise in his field since being on the Hill, where he graduated summa cum laude with a degree in economics, and contin- ued on to earn a M.S. and a Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin. In a video conference, Rosengren expressed his excitement by say- ing he views his new position as “a huge opportunity.”WEBcover

The search for a new Board chair began last winter, when the current chair, Robert E. Diamond Jr. ’73, announced to the Board that he would be stepping down after six years in the position.

While Diamond initially proposed to step down at the beginning of this academic year, Greene said in an interview that he asked Diamond to stay on through May to ensure a smooth transition for the next chair. Rosengren will un- derstudy Diamond for the remain- der of the year as a co-vice-chair of the Board. Diamond will maintain a position on the Board and was praised by both Greene and Rosengren for his strong leadership during his tenure.

According to Greene, the Board of Trustees created a subcommittee to ensure that the chair succession would be done collaboratively and thoughtfully. The subcommittee led by Joe Boulos ’68 and Lou Richardson ’67, also included Greene. In a phone interview, Richardson said that the first thing the subcommittee did was “to decide if there was a fit- ting job description for the Board chair.” She noted that while this may not seem like an obvious step, the Board wanted to make sure that the job description was in line with the Board’s vision for the College’s future. Once they had agreed on the job description, the subcommittee released a survey to the entire Board and conducted interviews with each member to establish the attributes and values they wanted in a new leader.

Richardson said that there was a 100 percent participation rate for the survey, and that there were two “very consistent” responses received: a person with demonstrated leadership both on and off the College’s Board, and someone who possesses strong communication skills.

As a former chair of the Board, Boulos noted in an email correspondence that the election pro- cess has greatly evolved in recent times: “years ago there was not much of a process. Today, every Board member is surveyed and then individually interviewed by a member of the search committee. Just like everything else at Colby, this was a collaborative process.” Rosengren reiterated Boulos’s point by saying that of the many nonprofit Boards he has been associated with, the College’s stood out as having a “highly deliberate” search process.

As shown by his unanimous election, Rosengren is perceived by many to embody the values deemed necessary by his peers on the board. Boulos described Rosengren as having an “analytical, collaborative and thoughtful” leadership style, adding “he is extremely bright and values input from all those individuals with whom he works.” Greene also shared his confidence in Rosengren’s leadership ability, calling him “incisive” and saying that his collaborative nature leads him to “ask the very best questions.”

While Greene was in agreement with the essential qualities put forth by the search subcommittee, he also described his own, unique criteria: “the new chair has to have a deep commitment to the College and share a view with the president.” Greene said that the Board is tasked with having the “longest view” out of any group at the College, as they have to make decisions to ensure the success of the College “50 or 200 years down the line.” As a result, it is imperative that the president of the College and the chair of the Board have a strong relationship.

In addition to having inherent leadership and communication skills, Greene said that Rosengren is “highly unique” as a board chair due to his academic history. Rosengren has remained active in research since his time at the College, engaging with subjects ranging from macroeconomics and bank supervision to the economics of mid-sized cities that have experienced hardship within recent decades.

The latter research, which, according to Bloomberg Business, the Boston Fed has turned into a competitive grant-making program to identify commonalities between cities that have recovered from a collapse in manufacturing, is not only part of the reason the media calls Rosengren an “activist” fed, but is also especially pertinent to current efforts from the College to partner with Waterville.

Rosengren said “very few presidents would think about collaboration in the way [Greene] does,” and thinks that the Board can help create “fruitful” interactions between the College and the Waterville community.

When asked about where his interest in economics and public policy spurred from, Rosengren cited a collaborative experience with retired Herbert E. Wadsworth Professor of Economics Jim Meehan as “life-changing.” The summer after his junior year, Rosengren was recommended by Meehan for a job at the Maine Attorney General’s office for a study they were conducting on the regulation of the trucking industry in Maine. Meehan said in an email correspondence that he recommended Rosengren because “he showed a genuine interest in economics and he thought carefully about the economic concepts and policy issues we were examining.” Rosengren ultimately turned that summer’s study into a Watson Fellowship, for which he spent a year researching trucking markets in Australia—still under the advisement of Meehan.

The experiences that Rosengren had with Meehan and other faculty members at the College prompted him to make “thinking about how relationships between faculty and students can continue to be rich” a priority for his time on the Board. Rosengren said that these close relationships give the College a “comparative advantage” over large universities whose lecture hall environments can be nearly replicated over the internet.

Meehan agreed that building the College’s academic program is the most important role of the Board, and said: “being a Colby graduate, a parent of a Colby graduate, and a member of the Board, Eric knows Colby and understands the importance of a rigorous academic program that allows students to grow and achieve their academic potential.”

When asked what he thinks the College’s biggest challenge is, Rosengren cited Waterville’s development. Although he currently acknowledges that downtown is not as “inviting” as some other college towns, Rosengren is “excited by [Greene’s] vision” and thinks that “if Waterville becomes rejuvenated, we will all benefit.” Another area that Rosengren hopes to focus on is how the Board gathers evidence for their decision-making. As he calls himself “an economist by training,” Rosengren thinks the Board should aspire to embrace a higher dependency on data.

Rosengren will begin to work on the revitalization and data projects on the day after commencement, May 23, when he assumes his position as Board chair. Greene, who anticipates that day with excitement, shared his confidence in Rosengren: “there may be people who don’t like Eric, I just haven’t met any of them yet.”

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