John Duffy's Remarks as the 2002 Recipient

of ICCTA's Ray Hartstein Trustee Achievement Award
June 13, 2002
Springfield, Illinois

I'd like to leave you with four impressions: exciting moments, rewarding moments, meaningful moments, and challenges.

My most exciting moments as a trustee had to be during my eight years on the ACCT/AACC Joint Commission on Federal Relations -- five years with the ACCT board and three with the AACC board -- years when I also chaired or co-chaired our ICCTA Federal Relations Committee. There were those, at the time, who thought the Joint Commission had assumed too much power. To this day, I honestly believe that no one on the Joint Commission felt that way. On Capitol Hill in those days, community college influence was still in its infancy. It was only four years earlier that the ACCT board unilaterally began the National Legislative Seminar. There were needs to be met, and we rallied around them: the Perkins Act and getting it named for Carl Perkins; the increasing emphasis on Pell Grants and getting them named for Claiborne Pell; the passage of the New G.I. Bill and getting it named the Sonny Montgomery G.I. Bill; the seemingly never-ending renewal of Section 127 of the Internal Revenue Code -- it took from 1978 until just last year to finally make that one permanent; and last, the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act for the 1990s. That was a major piece of legislation, and I just hope that we do even better this time around.

But when it comes to rewarding moments, I'll take our graduations. Be it an ESL graduation, a GED graduation, or a spring commencement, every one of our graduates has a story to tell, and way too many of them tug at our hearts or bring tears to our eyes. I know of nothing better than to hear a deep male voice from the back of the auditorium yell, "Yea, Ma!" It's the fuel that keeps us going through the hours upon hours of meetings and deliberations and struggles for consensus.

But as far as meaningful moments go, this award is one of the most meaningful moments for me as a trustee. It comes from you, my peers.

Tip O'Neill liked to say, "Never forget who got you there," and I haven't. There are hundreds of people who must share this award with me. Many of them, family, trustees, presidents, and others are here today; many more no longer come; and many have never darkened the door of an ICCTA workshop or an annual convention. And yet, I like to feel that all are here, you and they, sharing this moment with me.

But whatever we have done, it will never be good enough for tomorrow. In 2002, the challenges for trustees are even greater. When I started as a trustee at Elgin, we served 2,500 people and had five buildings. We now serve 28,000 people, have 13 buildings, are working on five others, and have a population that is expected to double in the next 20 years. Our size is different, and the demands are different, but there are a few things that I think we need to work on more than ever.

  • Item 1: Stay focused on governance. We use policy governance at Elgin, and it helps us differentiate between the president's management responsibilities and the board's governance responsibilities. We govern. We don't manage, and we don't micromanage, and it's something we should never forget.

  • Item 2: Stay focused on the future. The job of determining what programs and services to offer, for whom, at what cost, and with what priority is paramount. We must not allow ourselves to wallow in the moment, rather than to help shape what will be.

  • Item 3: Insure the financial well-being of our colleges. Beyond the recent budget issues which have surfaced in Illinois, our community colleges serve 65 percent of all enrollment in higher education in our state, but receive only 18 percent of the state higher education budget. New problems demand new solutions, and we, as trustees and presidents, have a responsibility to partner with our legislators to find them.

  • Item 4: Stay involved. As elected trustees, we must have the pulse of the needs of the people we serve. That means konwing our district, staying in touch with our communities, and getting input from our stakeholders.

  • And finally: Stay informed. Technology, facilities, finance, human resources, quality improvement, economic development, enrollment management, resource development, and diversity are just some of the areas for which we must hold ourselves accountable. In spite of financial hard times, we must continue to champion trustee professional development in order to continue making informed decisions.

    The future is ours to fashion. May we continue to meet the challenges.