Cover Story “From the innovations in technology to new acacemic, living and recreational facilities, we are making great strides.”: — A Conversation with Board Chairman Patrick Zenner



Alumnus Patrick Zenner, MBA’75 (R), the former president and CEO of the pharmaceutical giant Hoffmann-La Roche Inc., was elected the new chairman of the Fairleigh Dickinson University Board of Trustees in June. FDU Magazine recently sat down with Zenner to discuss his role and his thoughts on the present and future of Fairleigh Dickinson University.

Zenner succeeds Stephen Tumminello, BS’58 (R), who stepped down from the board after serving as trustee for 13 years and chairman of the board for the last seven.

What is your reaction to being elected chairman at this point in FDU’s history?

I’m very honored to be selected chairman of the FDU Board of Trustees. I’ve been involved with the University as a trustee since 1995, and I’ve seen the University grow, make important strides and overcome difficult challenges. We owe a debt of gratitude to past leaders and past trustees, particularly Stephen Tumminello. I want to thank him for his leadership and what he has personally contributed to the University. I have very big shoes to fill, and I look forward to building on many of the things that he has established.

I am thrilled with the new vision for the University — to be the leader in global education — and the progress that is being made. We have improved our enrollment and stabilized our financial situation. And now, we have the opportunity to develop more strategies for building the University, improving its reputation and broadening its financial base. I look forward to working with my fellow board members, President J. Michael Adams, the University’s senior leadership team, the superb faculty and the dedicated staff to further distinguish this great institution.

How do you view your role as the chairman of the board?

The chair is the quarterback of the team and helps ensure that the board’s agenda is focused on what is critically important to the University. The chair must lead the board in a process of continual learning, self-evaluation and improvement so the trustees can serve the University by contributing our intellect, our time and hopefully our money in support of the University’s goals. Fortunately, we have a very talented and committed group on the board, which puts the chair in an enviable position.

In any organization, you try to bring talented people with different skills and capabilities to the table. The chair’s responsibility is: to make sure that everybody has the opportunity to be fully engaged; to help ensure that different perspectives are solicited and discussed; and to obtain some level of consensus so good decisions are made, and we can move forward.

How is the board preparing for the future?

The trustees have spent a lot of time together talking about expectations for ourselves and expectations for the University. As a result, we have a better understanding of how we wish to work together and to support the University.

About two years ago, we began a process, which I was asked to lead as the chairman of the committee on trusteeship, to look at our governance and determine how we could be more effective. The entire board participated in that process, which culminated in a board retreat last year, in which we addressed trustee and board roles, responsibilities, expectations, how to make our meetings most effective and how to be more supportive of the University and the president.

What were the specific changes enacted?

The most important change was the decision to spend more of our time on the strategic issues of the University and less time on detailed operational issues that were the responsibility of the senior leadership of the University. That’s not to say that the board will not engage itself in operational matters when it can add value, but we wanted more of our time spent on the strategic issues of long-term importance so that we could ensure that these matters receive the proper attention and resources.

What do you see as the Univesity’s immediate priorities?

I think there are several. We must continue to focus on enrollment and building the student body. We have been very pleased with recent progress in this area, and we need to further refine and expand that success. This is vitally important because the University is largely tuition dependent. Enrollment is critical to providing the funding for what must be done.

Secondly, we need to enhance our University advancement process to ensure that we improve our fiscal strength and increase our endowment. We anticipate that, with our new senior vice president for University advancement, working with an excellent staff and with the board, our fund-raising goals will be higher and that we will be able to achieve a significant improvement in the endowment.

Those two areas are very important. The other priority is to focus on the University reputation and determine how we can put together a strategy to further enhance the quality of this University and provide even more reasons why people should study here and why people should support us.

From your experience in the corporate realm, how responsive is FDU’s global vision to today’s needs?

Global education can be defined in many ways, but my view of it — and what we’re accomplishing here at Fairleigh Dickinson University — ties very much into what’s needed in the business world. That is, we need students to understand that they are global citizens and that they are participants in a global economy. They need to understand the world in which they live and realize that, whatever their desires or whatever jobs they pursue, they must be skillful at working in a global environment.

“We need students to understand they are global citizens and that they are participants in a global economy.”>

<P>Virtually everything done today has international and global ramifications. To achieve success, it is critically important to have an appreciation and understanding of one’s place in the world and an appreciation and understanding of different cultures and people. And I think that the vision created here — that President Adams has articulated for Fairleigh Dickinson — and what we are doing to fulfill that vision are what students most need. Students at FDU are exposed to learning in a global environment. Students are exposed to a diverse population of people from around the globe and given opportunities to mix and interact in ways that will prepare them for being global citizens and for being able to be more effective in their professional and personal lives. </P>

<h4><font color=Hasn’t Fairleigh Dickinson always provided a global education?

That’s true to an extent. Today, however, we are building on that in many ways, bringing further definition and focus to FDU’s global education. Take for example the groundbreaking requirement that every student enroll in distance-learning classes, which exposes them to professors and cultures from throughout the world. Also, while students have long been able to study abroad at Wroxton, our increasing number of relationships with other institutions in other countries now offers students even more options for the variety and diversity of experiences that should characterize global education. So I think we are now providing greater opportunities for students to experience a high quality global education.

What drives you to serve higher education?

We’re here as a University to provide a place of higher learning for young people to come, to grow, to develop, to enrich themselves and to prepare them for whatever their futures might be. To help make students cognizant of the global community in which they live and how they can best position themselves in that global community is a very exciting task.

Higher education is the key to opening up opportunities. For me, higher education — and Fairleigh Dickinson University in particular — gave me the foundation and the opportunity to advance my career and be a good citizen of this country and the world. And so higher education has always been something to which both my wife and I have been devoted. In addition to serving on FDU’s board, I also sit on the board of Creighton University (Omaha, Neb.), where I was an undergraduate. I devote my time and energy to those two nonprofit organizations because I believe higher education is so crucial.

What challenges most concern you?

Funding — sustaining any university is a difficult task, so raising money has to be on everybody’s top priority list. This country relies substantially on philanthropy to sustain and build the financial capabilities of its universities. Institutions of higher learning cannot rely on government funding, although it is an important source. Thus, making sure that the University is well positioned to take ongoing advantage of philanthropy is a very high priority.

Beyond that, I’d say our ability to bring technology and access to information to students and faculty is very important. The rapid developments in technology are transforming our society at a stunning rate. We must understand the transformations occurring, and integrate these changes into the educational process in novel and innovative ways. And we have to ensure that our professors are as talented at integrating technology into the classroom as our students are capable of using it to access information.

What would you say to an alumnus who has not kept up to date with recent events at Fairleigh Dickinson?

Quite simply, this is a great place. We were all given an opportunity to learn, and we walked away with something very valuable: an education that helped us in our careers. The University, like most universities, has had its ups and downs in terms of issues and challenges, but come visit the campus. Come see how exciting and dynamic it is. Our vision for being the leader in global education and all of the various programs here express that. See what’s new on campus and the changes that have made this an even more attractive place for learning. From the innovations in technology to new academic, living and recreational facilities, we are making great strides. This is an exciting place, and it’s a place where you’ll want to get more involved, a place that you’ll want to support.

Where do you see Fairleigh Dickinson five or 10 years from now?

I see us fulfilling our goals. We will be considered the leader in global education in all its manifestations. We will see a continuing robust enrollment. This will be viewed as an institution where top students want to come and where graduates will say they had a very enriching, challenging and meaningful experience — one they will recommend to others. We also will see our endowment base significantly improve, and the various philanthropic constituencies that we will have reached, believing in what Fairleigh Dickinson University is doing, will substantially commit financially to helping us achieve those goals and objectives.



The Chairman of the Board

Eminent Trio: Michael King | Eminent Trio: Betsy Bernard

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