Independent Boards of Trustees at Catholic Colleges and Universities, Fifty Years Later: Findings and Reflections from Six Holy Cross Schools

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After recounting the historical circumstances of the establishment of independent boards at Catholic colleges and universities, this paper considers the present conditions of boards at six Holy Cross institutions. Interviews and correspondence with the presidents of these institutions provided answers to a number of questions, including: How are boards educated in the institution’s Catholic mission and identity? Are they typically educated in the principles of Catholic social thought? Are lay members expected to be well-informed about the institution’s Catholic mission and identity, or is this considered to be the charge of members representing the religious congregation? The paper closes by considering the prospects for the next fifty years of partnership between religious and lay persons in the governance of Catholic colleges and universities. In particular, what roles and expectations are appropriate for lay members of boards, especially in light of Vatican II’s declaration that “modern conditions demand that [the lay] apostolate be broadened and intensified” (Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity, §1)?

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