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Meet (More of) the Trustees

Campus scenes afternoon cb 20200229 6489

Photo by Claudia Bonaccorsi '22.

In the fall 2019 issue we kicked off a new Q&A series featuring members of the Dickinson Board of Trustees. These dedicated Dickinsonians offered a glimpse into the inner workings of  this leadership group, and we are pleased to continue this series with a new group of trustees, including our first-ever non-alum trustee. 

Michele Mahoney Richardson ’85

Nonprofit Finance Consultant

Years on the BOT: 22

Michele mahoney richardson 85

Why did you join the board? 

In the early ’90s, I was a disgruntled alum focused on all the ways my husband’s alma mater, Williams College, was doing everything better than Dickinson. I wrote a letter to then-President Fritschler outlining everything Dickinson was doing wrong and my ideas for how to fix them. I was shocked when Fritschler called me to talk about my concerns and asked me to be part of the solution and join his Board of Advisors. In 1998, after several years on the BOA, and a serious education in higher-ed finances, I was asked to join the Board of Trustees. By this time I was an enthusiastic Dickinson supporter, and the chance to continue my service to the college was too compelling to pass up. 

What’s something you think the Dickinson community should know about the BOT?

The board has changed a lot since I joined (this will be my last year). It is younger and more diverse. There has been active recruitment of board members with a goal of bringing in new members to fill gaps the board identifies. Board members are assigned to committees based on their professional expertise or areas of interest. I’ve had the privilege to serve as chair of the finance, facilities and investment committees. We work very closely with the president’s senior staff members, who are passionately committed to Dickinson. I’ve served on several nonprofit boards, and my board service to Dickinson has been by far the most rewarding—a sentiment shared by many of my fellow trustees. I am humbled to be part of this smart, talented, diverse, thoughtful and quick-witted group of alumni. 

What’s something the Dickinson community might be interested to know about you?

I’m an avid scuba diver and dive with my family whenever we can. Also, we got to see the original Broadway cast of Hamilton in part because of a tip from fellow trustee Sylvia Smith ’73 who saw it during its run at the Public Theater. Her advice ensured we had tickets in hand long before the hype hit.

Aaron Williams

Senior Advisor Emeritus, International Development & Government Relations,  RTI International

Years on the BOT: 1

Aaronwilliamsthailand med

Why did you join  the board?

I have been a friend and colleague of President Ensign for some 30 years, and I have admired her throughout her distinguished career as a global leader. I have observed her brilliant intellect, dynamic leadership and the compassion she brings to every organization. She is a leader who demonstrates every day how one can work to improve the human condition. 

I was very pleased when President Ensign asked me to consider joining the board, because I was aware of Dickinson’s long and productive partnership with the Peace Corps—over 200 alums have served as Peace Corps volunteers and several faculty and staff were returned Peace Corps volunteers. As I learned more about the college’s mission to prepare students to engage in global citizenship and its reputation as a leader in promoting global engagement, I was delighted to have the opportunity to contribute to this endeavor.  

I appreciate the warm welcome that I have received from the BOT and the Dickinson academic family. I’m delighted to share my experience and global vision with students who have an interest in global engagement, be it in government, business or the nonprofit world. I sincerely hope that my perspective will be of value to the Dickinson community. 

What’s something you think the Dickinson community should know about the BOT?

First and foremost, the members of the BOT are clearly grateful for the superb education they received here and are enthusiastic advocates for the college. They are dedicated to ensuring that Dickinson will continue to provide an innovative and interdisciplinary education to the future global leaders in our society and around the world. They have tremendous respect for the traditions of this institution, and I have observed the sheer enjoyment and deep commitment that the BOT has in their interaction with students, faculty and staff in both academic and social settings. 

What’s something the Dickinson community might be interested to know about you?

My wife, Rosa, and I are the proud grandparents of five grandsons who bring us great joy every day. During my career in the USAID foreign service, we lived in five different countries, raising our two sons primarily abroad, and we still enjoy frequent travel to every continent.   

I’ve had the privilege and honor to be a leader in three sectors: business, government and the nonprofit world. I’ve enjoyed sharing my experience with the amazing students at Dickinson. I’m pleased to engage with this new generation of future leaders and hopefully play a small role in helping to influence their careers as they go forward. 

I strongly believe that we should all strive to be knowledgeable and good global citizens. Our world is so interconnected that it’s imperative we work together to ensure that the young people of the world will have a sustainable future and the ability to work through our differences for the greater good of humankind!

Rob Symington ’86  

Senior Advisor, Avenue Capital Group 

Years on the BOT: 5

Rob symington 86

Why did you join the board?

Before joining the Board of Trustees, I had the opportunity to work with several trustees as a nontrustee member of the Committee on Investments. Invariably the trustees would default to animated conversations about a wide variety of challenges and opportunities that Dickinson was facing. I was stunned by the complicated and competitive nature of what the college’s administration and faculty have to do to manage a small, private liberal-arts college. When I was asked to join, I was honored but also intimidated by the amount of knowledge and passion the board members had for the school. Having now served for a few years, I am amazed at the diversity of backgrounds and careers the other trustees have. It’s amazing what you can do with a liberal-arts degree. My goal as a member is to continue to learn how best to help the school’s administration, faculty and students have as good an experience at Dickinson as I did.  

What’s something you think the Dickinson community should know about the BOT?

The Board of Trustees appoints members of the Committee on Investments to “be responsible and accountable for the prudent management of Dickinson’s endowment assets,” which currently exceed just over $500 million. The committee’s primary objective is to “maximize returns while minimizing risk over rolling 10-year periods.” While the committee actively develops and maintains the college’s investment policy, for almost 15 years, the committee has delegated the active day-to-day investment management of the endowment assets to Investure LLC, a $14 billion OCIO (outsourced chief investment office) for college endowments and private foundations. With Investure as its partner, Dickinson’s endowment has consistently outperformed its key benchmark comparisons and has ranked in the top 25% in terms of 10-year performance versus the NACUBO-TIAA study of over 800 college endowments. 

What’s something the Dickinson community might be interested to know about you?

My parents were both teachers. My brothers and I have always talked about going back to teach at some point in our careers. After 25 years working as an investment research analyst and portfolio manager, in 2015, I joined the faculty at Cornell University’s Johnson Graduate School of Business to teach students how to do investment research.

Read more from the spring 2020 issue of Dickinson Magazine.


Published May 13, 2020