Across the Board

On the eve of the annual alumni trustee election, here's a closer look at the makeup and responsibilities of Penn State's governing body.

infographic of Board of Trustees positions up for reelection in spring 2023 by Peter Hoey

From the birth of the university, the mandate was clear. The charter drawn up by the Pennsylvania state legislature on Feb. 22, 1855, establishing the creation of the Farmers’ High School of Pennsylvania, stated that “the institution shall be under the management and government of a board of trustees ... competent to perform the duties hereinafter authorized and required.” The Penn State Board of Trustees has grown and evolved from that initial 13-member board, but that mandate—the overall responsibility for the governance and welfare of the university—remains.

While day-to-day management of the university is delegated to the president, the board’s purview includes approval of the university’s operating budget, student tuition and fees, and major construction and real estate expenditures, and selection and evaluation of the university president. Board membership includes leaders of government and industry and representatives of alumni, faculty, and students; as stated in the bylaws, the members “bring to their roles varied backgrounds and expertise ... but they must keep the welfare of the entire university, not just a particular constituency, at all times paramount.”

Members, who receive no financial compensation for their service, meet throughout the year as a full board, and also serve on various committees. In addition to the executive committee, the board maintains seven standing committees: Academic Affairs, Research and Student Life; Audit and Risk; Equity and Human Resources; Finance, Business, and Capital Planning; Governance and Long-Range Planning; Legal and Compliance; and Outreach, Development and Community Relations.

Three of the board’s nine alumni-elected seats come up for election each year; nominations for this year’s alumni trustee election were open from Jan. 15 through Feb. 25, and all Penn State alumni will have from April 10 through May 4 to cast their ballots. The nine alumni trustees account for a quarter of the board’s voting membership. Here’s a breakdown of the 38-member board:


infographic of PSU Board of Trustees makeup by Peter Hoey