Why We Serve
Meet Members of Meredith’s Board of Trustees
By Melyssa Allen
Why We Serve
Meet Members of Meredith’s Board of Trustees
By Melyssa Allen
I n higher education, a Board of Trustees plays a vital role in ensuring a college’s long-term success. Meredith’s Board is made up of dedicated women and men who bring their professional expertise and their support for the transformative power of higher education to their service. The majority of current Trustees are alumnae or family members of Meredith students and graduates; thus, they know the reputation, offerings, successes, and challenges of the College quite well.
“The Board of Trustees has responsibility for overseeing the major policy, facilities, personnel, and budgetary issues of the College,” explained President Jo Allen, ’80, who works closely with the Board. “They do so at what we call the ‘30,000-foot level,’ meaning they shape the big picture, while assigning the implementation of those policies and other daily management decisions to the College’s administration.”
The Board’s key role in shaping the present and future of the College is in approving and monitoring the assessment and impact of Meredith’s strategic plan.
Meredith’s Board of Trustees is actively involved in the College’s work, with regular full Board meetings that are supplemented by committee service. Trustees serve four-year terms unpaid. Board members take their roles as advisers to Meredith’s administration seriously.
“Critical to being a good Board member is being able to ask good questions in a kind way, recognizing the need for confidentiality in discussing strategic directions and personnel matters, and offering unwavering support, insights, and suggestions as the College goes about its business,” said Allen.
Meredith seeks out Trustees who can collectively provide well-rounded guidance.
“We have educators, entrepreneurs, business people, financial representatives, and some Trustees with essential connections to other leaders,” said Allen. “These skill sets mesh to help advise us on all sorts of matters requiring our attention and decisions, ranging from enrollment and recruiting, to facilities planning and maintenance, to personnel (policies, hiring, firing, etc.), and budget management.”
Meredith Magazine asked current members of the Board of Trustees to share why they chose to serve on Meredith’s Board along with one goal they have for the College. Here are comments, edited for space, from a sampling of current Trustees.
Yvette M. Brown, ’90
Chair of the Board
Brown, a Board certified OB/Gyn and faculty member at the Penn State Hershey Medical College, has served five previous terms as a Meredith Trustee. She is the first Black woman to serve as chair of Meredith’s Board of Trustees. Representation is one reason she accepted the initial invitation to be a Trustee.
“When I was a senior at Meredith, I was SGA president. There was a serious honor code violation that resulted in my needing to address the Meredith Board of Trustees on behalf of the students. What I noticed that day was that the Board was very homogeneous. At the conclusion of my speech, I said to myself that I would one day be on the Meredith Board. At that time that was a bold statement. The qualifications to be a Meredith Board member then included the requirements to be a North Carolinian and Southern Baptist. Also in my mind, although not an actual requirement, not a person of color. I did not meet the two stated qualifications and I definitely did not meet the qualification I thought was in place based on the appearance of the Board at that time. When I was asked to serve on the Board years ago, I did so because I love Meredith, am grateful for my experiences at Meredith, and I knew that representation in all areas matters – location, gender, race, ethnicity, etc.
My major goal for Meredith College is for the institution to remain viable in the ever-changing landscape of higher education. Women’s colleges are becoming fewer each year. We need to continue to evolve and grow so we can continue to have a presence and become a women’s institution that is forever far too important to fail. We are achieving that goal every day.”
Alma Ammons Hoffmann, ’89, M.Ed.
“I serve on the Board at Meredith College because it is an honor to be a part of such a historically rich and strong learning environment for so many women. I want to offer anything I can to continue the success of Meredith’s programs, staff, and facilities. Earning my master’s degree from Meredith set my professional life’s projection and prepared me for a career as a teacher, educator, business owner, and leader.
One goal I have for Meredith is to help it stay a leader in being forward-thinking and open-minded in all areas from educational leadership to degrees, programs, and student success.”
Carolyn S. Leith, '85
Leith, who completed her degree through Meredith’s Wings program, has worked in the financial services industry as a financial adviser for 30 years.
“As immediate past chair of the Board, I have greatly enjoyed the opportunity to get to know all of the workings of each of the committees. I was able to attend all of the committee meetings for two years. That opportunity greatly enhanced my understanding of the importance of each of the committees. Prior to being Board chair, I had been chair of several committees over the years, but seeing it all fit together was truly impressive.
I was a Wings student. Finishing college was the best thing I have ever done for myself. I feel so fortunate to have been asked to serve on the Board and to be able to give back for the great opportunity that was given to me.”
Ella Frantz, ’80
“I left Meredith, not only with a degree in English, but also with a group of friends that have surrounded each other for the past 41 years. If I can do one small thing that may help Meredith with making good and responsible decisions so that other young women can have what I have shared with my friends, then I am happy to serve. I learned about personal service – to each other, to institutions, and to ideals – from Meredith.
My goal for Meredith is that we may continue to adapt to a changing world in which students need and desire new and innovative courses, methods of delivery, traditions, and housing. Only by recognizing these changes and being open to adapting may this new group of young women come together and begin their 41-year relationships. As technology, social distancing, and individualism take over, it is still human relationships that bring satisfaction and joy. I want Meredith to always keep this at the core of every decision. That is where we differentiate ourselves. That is where we shine.”
David L. Warren
Warren, former president of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU), has extensive experience in higher education as well as strong family connections to Meredith.
“I was drawn to Meredith College for two compelling reasons. The first is to honor the memory of my mother Katherine (Kat) Liles, ’36, and to support the ongoing work of the College, which had such a profound impact on her and her four alumnae sisters – Hilda, Hortense, Meredith, and Gladys Liles. In addition, several other members of the Liles extended family claim Meredith as their alma mater.
The second reason is that President Jo Allen served five years as a member of the board (the last two years as chair and past chair) of the 1,000-member National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU). Her leadership was widely applauded then, and private higher education continues to be indebted to her. I was delighted to accept her invitation to join the Meredith College Board of Trustees.
My contribution as Meredith College Trustee has drawn primarily on my 10 years as president of Ohio Wesleyan University, and 26 years as NAICU president. Periodically, members of the Meredith Board may ask me to comment on higher education trends, or on federal legislation regarding tax policy, student aid or regulatory issues. It is my hope that I can support Meredith in becoming the premier college of its kind in America.”
Quintala Parham, ’08
“It is important for me to give back to Meredith, and in doing so, I want to be a positive voice for the College. I received a wonderful education at Meredith, which has served me well both personally and professionally. It is my honor and privilege to serve the College on our Board of Trustees. I hope my experience and continued involvement with the College will encourage other women of color to find their place on campus and within our community.
My immediate goal is to magnify and share the positive experiences that make Meredith so special. I was a non-traditional student and returned to Meredith to complete my degree. It’s important we continue to encourage more women to return to the classroom to start or finish their degree. As an annual donor, I hope that more alumnae will support the College financially. Our support ensures that Meredith will continue to grow and remain a competitive option for today’s students. Alumnae support betters the College and ensures we can meet the needs of today’s students and future generations of students.”
Patty Whisnant Cease, ’75
“I am fortunate to have met with students, faculty, and staff through my participation with the School of Business Advisory Board and International Programs. These interactions convinced me that we are having success in fulfilling our mission of educating and inspiring students to make a positive impact in the world. I am committed to helping ensure Meredith’s policies and strategies evolve so that we responsibly use our resources to continue to fulfill that mission.
One key goal is to promote lasting fiscal health of the College in support of Meredith’s vision. President Allen and her team are addressing many challenges including how to attract and retain students, increase flexibility of course delivery methods, maintain a safe and healthy campus, and offer strong academic programs and experiential learning experiences. And as one of the largest colleges for women in the country, we have an opportunity to continue to provide a unique college experience. Through open dialogue, compassion, and deliberate actions, we can ensure financial stability and continue to thrive as an affordable, accredited, and highly respected college.”
Elizabeth Triplett Beam, ’72
“It is an honor to follow in the tradition of alumnae Mabel Claire Maddrey, Anne Dahle, and Mary Jon Roach, who served Meredith with courage, vision, respect, and love for our alma mater.
My aspiration for Meredith is to remember who we are, how we got to where we are, and dream forward to what we can be.”
Pat Johnson, ’70
Johnson majored in mathematics at Meredith and brings insights from her career in local government management to her service as a Trustee.
“It was humbling to be chosen for the Board, as Meredith has been a springboard for so many in preparation for life beyond academia. Without question, the College provided the crucial (and timely) encouragement and academic foundation needed to pursue my chosen life directions. What a joy to have an opportunity to give back.
My goal for the College is to nurture academic achievement and professional aspirations for all Meredith students.
“First, I believe in the College’s mission to equip women with the skills, wisdom, and character to make a positive difference in the world. Second, Meredith helped educate just about all the women I’m related to, either by blood or by marriage. Because of that, I feel a tremendous sense of gratitude and obligation to the College and am glad to do my part to pay it forward.
A goal for Meredith is for it to become the standard in this country for what a successful, high-level, high-impact liberal arts education for women looks like.”
Silda Wall Spitzer, ’80
“Meredith set me on a path and gave me the opportunity to grow into the best person I could be, though that is still a work in progress! It instilled strength and confidence. It allowed me to reaffirm my core values. It taught me, as a woman, to understand it was up to me alone to find my way in the world and make my mark, yet appreciate and be a part of family and community around me. And I want to be of help to my once-fellow classmate and remarkable leader Jo Allen, as she leads Meredith forward.
I want Meredith to continue to grow and evolve as an institution with excellent education of women as its foundation stone.”
“I believe in the mission of Meredith and the dynamic leadership of Jo Allen. As a former college president, I understand the pressures and challenges a president faces. I thought if I could use my ‘wisdom’ gained from mistakes I made to help her and the College avoid them, then I would be delighted to serve.
One of my goals is for Meredith to continue to impact the lives of women in a way that prepares them to enter their futures with confidence, grit, and humility.”
“Although I had no prior connection with Meredith, I originally chose to serve on the Board, and happily continue to serve, because I believe strongly in the educational niche that a single sex private college can provide for a significant demographic of young women seeking a college education.
My goal for Meredith is that it stays educationally and financially strong so that it can continue to accomplish its unique mission in helping students recognize and develop their strengths and potential.”
Lena Epps Brooker, ’62
“I chose to serve as a member of the Meredith College Board of Trustees because an American Indian has never done so.
As the first American Indian and the first woman of color alumna, I hope that my experiences at Meredith and my life experiences can add a perspective that’s been missing. Specifically, I hope that my input and advocacy will result in more awareness and appreciation of my people – the angst and achievements. Most importantly, I hope my participation will result in more authentic and comfortable inclusion in every aspect of Meredith’s daily life for all students, staff, faculty, and the administrative team.”
Carol Boyd Tillman, ’72
“I serve as a Trustee because I believe in the importance of education and advocating for young women and their specific educational needs and constraints.
My primary goal is to continue the academic excellence and expand, even further, the topnotch reputation Meredith College has always had among universities and colleges.
Meredith has afforded students many opportunities for educational, developmental, and social/emotional growth through programs in and out of the classroom. And through that college experience, we’ve created a sisterhood that continues throughout life through friendships, careers, and families.”
“My daughter was a 2014 Meredith graduate. She had an awesome experience. The professors and administration were extremely supportive of her goal of becoming an early education educator. She met so many new friends and built relationships that will last. After she graduated and began her teaching career, many of her professors reached out to her to continue their relationship and support. I was so impressed, I want to help Meredith grow and support more aspiring young women.
My goal as a Trustee is to help Meredith become an even stronger destination for women from all racial and socioeconomic backgrounds to receive an amazing education and successfully pursue their career dreams and passions.”
Claire Sullivan Slaughter, ’72
“My connections to Meredith are family based. My great grandfather, a Southern Baptist minister, was on the Board of Trustees when the College was downtown and bought the land in West Raleigh to build today’s campus. His daughters, my great aunts, graduated from Meredith before the campus moved and my mother graduated and taught at Meredith. Both of my sisters were in school with me and all three of my daughters also are alums.
I feel that Meredith chose me to serve on the Board and not the other way around. I was asked to get involved with the Alumnae Association right after Jo Allen began her presidency, and I knew it was something I was called to do. I had been involved as a younger woman but had withdrawn to focus on my work and family. Working with Dr. Allen and her staff changed everything for me and for the College. After serving as president of the Alumnae Association, I was honored to be asked to join the Board and there was no question in my mind that it was where I should devote my energy.
My most ardent goal for Meredith is that it not only survives as a women’s college but grows stronger for that very reason. As other schools are closing or adding men to undergraduate programs, Meredith is uniquely positioned to have its finest and most prestigious days ahead.”
“As a teacher, I am obviously interested in educating students and helping them achieve their goals and dreams. Teaching provides me with the opportunity to serve students in a one-on-one hands-on capacity at the ‘grass roots’ level of education. Serving on Meredith’s Board of Trustees gives me the ability to contribute at a different level to establish policies that will hopefully help numerous students and the College as a whole.
I have three goals that I would like to see come to fruition at Meredith. I would like to see more diversity in all areas, including the student body, faculty, and positions in the administration. I know that Meredith has a history of having predominantly white student bodies and has had some issues of racism in the past. I am very encouraged by the current ongoing efforts at Meredith College led by Dr. Jo Allen to attack the issue of racism and establish an inclusive environment at Meredith, and I am very confident that Meredith will make great strides in this area in the future.
I want to see Meredith College become more nationally known. It is very highly regarded in North Carolina, and Meredith graduates benefit from an excellent network of connections in North Carolina and the surrounding area. However, Meredith College has so much to offer, I believe Meredith can and should become better known nationally.
My third goal is motivated by my background in the criminal justice area. As a former FBI Special Agent, I am very concerned about the criminal justice system in our country. I would like to see the Master of Arts in Criminal Justice program at Meredith develop into a leader in producing talented graduates of high character and integrity to work in our criminal justice system.”