Matthew A. Bird, Ballot Position No. 19

BirdMatthew A. Bird ’80 Eng

Project controls manager
Bechtel Group
Gettysburg, Pa.

Read Bird’s official bio and position statement here (PDF download).

1. What should Penn State be looking for in its next president?

The selection of our next president may be the most important in the history of the University. We should look for a leader who will be embraced by the students and alumni with a proven administrative track record, as well as one with a vision toward achieving academic excellence. As I prepared my response to this question, I reviewed initiatives being pursued by other institutions across the country. I was struck by Purdue’s commitment not to raise tuition for the next two years. I believe this type of budgetary restraint should be near the top of the list for priorities of the next president. Therefore, the selected candidate would be one that can critically examine all aspects of the current $4.26 billion University operating budget. With today’s economic climate, families of prospective students are forced to do the same. Penn State would be wise to demonstrate a similar approach. Our rank as one of the most expensive public institutions in the Big Ten and the nation is not one that we should be proud of. Most importantly, the next president should also be mindful and respectful of the rich legacy of achievement enjoyed by Penn State. This legacy is something to be proud of and leveraged for the benefit for our University, students and alumni.

2. What changes or reforms should the Board of Trustees consider to help the university progress after the events of 2011 and 2012? Please explain why—or, if you don’t think reform is needed, please explain why not.

As stated on the Penn State website,….’The Board of Trustees of The Pennsylvania State University is the corporate body established by the charter with complete responsibility for the government and welfare of the University and all the interests pertaining thereto including students, faculty, staff and alumni. Penn State’s 32-member Board of Trustees is composed of the following: Five trustees serve in an ex officio capacity by virtue of their position within the University or the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. They are the President of the University; the Governor of the Commonwealth; and the state secretaries of the departments of Agriculture; Education; and Conservation and Natural Resources. Six trustees are appointed by the Governor; nine trustees are elected by the alumni; six are elected by organized agricultural societies within the Commonwealth; and six are elected by the Board of Trustees representing business and industry endeavors.’ Unchanged since 1951, the 32 member Board is one of the largest in the country. Governing boards within public institutions in the Big Ten range from 8 to 19 members. The actions of November 2011 and throughout 2012 demonstrate that a change needs to be made. Was the welfare of the University and all the interests pertaining to students, faculty, staff and alumni on the forefront of these decisions? Or was it the welfare of the Board members? Having 23 of 32 members totally unaccountable puts the question in doubt. If elected, I will support an effort to amend the bylaws and structure of the Board.

3. How do you define the role of an alumni trustee, and how would that inform the way you would approach your term on the board?

A trustee may be defined as a person who is trusted to make decisions in the beneficiary’s best interests. An alumni trustee is not an appointed position but one elected by fellow alumni. As such I believe the role of an alumni trustee is one of great responsibility. It is a position that requires one to stay in touch with the pulse of the alumni. If elected, I will look for opportunities to solicit feedback from the alumni during my term. The 525,000 living alumni of Penn State deserve a voice on the board that will treat them with the respect they deserve. As a husband, father and brother to my own Penn State alums, I will be attuned to the impact our actions may have on the entire Alumni. Many of us feel that the actions of the Board in the past 16 months were done without proper consideration of those who made this University the great institution it is. We Are the Alumni ! As a trustee I will work diligently to make sure that we are heard and that the Board acts in the best interest of the University and its Alumni.

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