New senior trustee knows higher ed 

Catharine Bond Hill ’85PhD, former president of Vassar, now runs an education not-for-profit.

Michael Marsland

Michael Marsland

Catharine Bond Hill ’85PhD, former president of Vassar College, will lead Yale’s board of trustees. View full image

After five years as a Yale trustee, former Vassar College president Catharine Bond Hill ’85PhD got a promotion this summer—to senior trustee, the closest thing the Board of Trustees has to a chair. Is it a lot more work than being a rank-and-file trustee? “I’ve only been at it for a month,” Hill says with a laugh, “but I think the answer is yes.”

Yale describes the senior trustee as “the primary connection between the other trustees and the president.” (Yale recently started using the term “Board of Trustees” in lieu of the more-arcane official name, Yale Corporation.) Hill says the group is “relatively small for a board, and everybody on it works hard.”

Hill’s election to succeed Donna Dubinsky ’77 as senior trustee was announced in June, along with the appointment of two new trustees: investors Joshua Steiner ’87 and David Sze ’88. Since 2016, Hill has headed Ithaka S+R, a New York–based not-for-profit that provides guidance and research about higher education. An economist by training, Hill has focused her own research on the affordability of higher education; as president of Vassar from 2006 to 2016, she oversaw a dramatic increase in matriculation by lower-income students.

She thinks Yale has also been making strides in this area. “I clearly have some experience to bring to the table,” she says, “but Peter [Salovey ’86PhD, Yale’s president] and the college have been doing a great job, and I’m very supportive of their efforts.”

Hill takes her post as journalist James Kirchick ’06 is gathering signatures to run as a petition candidate for a seat on the board; he would be the first in more than 15 years. One of Kirchick’s motives is to counter what he perceives as a restriction of free speech on campus. Hill thinks that “across American higher education, the issue has been exaggerated. Hundreds of controversial speakers come to campuses and it’s not a problem; when a few events go badly, that gets all the attention.” Still, she says, “it’s important to stay committed to free speech, and Yale’s Woodward Report is incredibly impressive and still timely.”

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