Alumni Council names trustee candidates

by Katy O'Donnell | 12/12/06 6:00am

WEB UPDATE, December 12, 9:00 p.m.

The Alumni Council announced last week its slate of three candidates who will vie in the spring for the Board of Trustees seat vacated by resigning Trustee Nancy Jeton '76. The three candidates, Richard "Sandy" Alderson '69, Sherri Oberg '82, Tu '86 and John S. Wolf '70, were chosen from more than 300 alumni nominated by their peers.

Alderson is the CEO of the San Diego Padres. After 17 years with the Oakland A's as general counsel, general manager and president, he joined the Padres in 2005. He has also served as executive vice president of baseball operations for Major League Baseball and is a member of the advisory board for the UC Berkeley Haas School of Business.

Although the former Marine and Vietnam veteran fell out with the College after it cut its ROTC program in the 1970s, Alderson resumed involvement as an alumnus in the late 1980s and said he is happy with the current administration.

"I've known [College President] Jim Wright for a considerable amount of time; he is one of the reasons that I got involved in the College again in the late '80s," he said. "I have a lot of respect for what he has accomplished during his tenure."

Alderson did, however, express concern over the apparent "polarization in the alumni" exhibited in the 51-49 percent split of votes on the proposed changes to the alumni constitution, which were voted on in October.

"I don't think that polarization ought to continue," he said.

But the split didn't dissuade Alderson from accepting the nomination.

"To some extent it made it more appealing, because I think there are things that can be done to reconcile the groups," he said.

Oberg, on the other hand, was less concerned about the recent rift.

"The way I look at it is, a decision has been made so we just go forward," she said.

Oberg, the cofounder, president, and CEO of the biotechnology company Acusphere, based in Watertown, Mass., is a 2006 finalist for the Ernst & Young New England Entrepreneur of the Year Award. The New England technology journal Mass High Tech named her one of its 2005 All Stars in the biotech sector, and she has served on a number of advisory boards and lectured at the Tuck School of Business.

Oberg, like Alderson, was reluctant to criticize Dartmouth or the current Board of Trustees.

"I think it's premature to comment on the problems," she said. "That's really the process I'm going into now -- figuring out what are the facts and what are the real issues rather than what are the perceived issues."

Wolf, a former ambassador, serves as president of the Eisenhower Fellowships, a nonprofit organization that sponsors leadership programs. A Mid-Career Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton, Wolf joined the Foreign Service in 1970 and served in the Department of State, where he won several awards and held the post of ambassador to Malaysia and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation in the 1990s. He also served as the assistant secretary for nonproliferation and chief of the U.S. monitoring mission for the Middle East peace process.

Wolf was out of the country and unavailable for comment at press time.

J.B. Daukas '84, a member of the Alumni Council's nominating committee, lauded Wolf's diplomatic background as he commented on the three nominees' various strengths.

"We put up all three of these candidates but each of them is really excellent in different ways," Daukas said.

Both Daukas and nominating committee head Rick Routhier '73, Tu '76 lamented the political nature that alumni elections have been assuming. Alumni voted in record numbers on the hotly-debated alumni constitution proposal in the fall, and unprecedented campaigning tactics emerged to sway voters.

Since that vote, the Council's balloting committee has decided to lift restrictions on campaigning in trustee elections. This was a response to concerns that the old system gave petitioners an advantage because candidates on the ballot could not campaign, but petitioners could spread their message to get signatures.

As a result of the change, Daukas said he was concerned that the quality of Alumni Council candidates could decline in the future if nominees feel they have to spend a lot of time campaigning.

"It might be unfortunate if we lose people who otherwise would make excellent trustees but who do not want to go through the hassle of campaigning," Daukas said. "That would be unfortunate if this becomes a kind of political football."

Alderson also articulated concern over the nature of the upcoming election.

"I think it's fundamentally unfortunate that we are talking about politics and campaigning in the same breath as the board of trustees in a leading institution," he said.

Regardless, Routhier admitted that a concern for voter appeal did affect the committee's decision. He said the nominating committee has had to forego recruiting specialists, who could fulfill specific needs on the Board, in favor of more "electable" candidates.

"The alumni really aren't that close to the governance needs of the board," Routhier said.

His apprehensions about electability echoed those expressed by Wright in a speech he gave to the Alumni Council Dec. 1.

"My fear is that we may soon find ourselves in a situation where 'electability' will also be a prime factor, perhaps the dominant factor, in alumni nominations-and the College will be the loser as a result," he told the Alumni Council.

Petition trustee nominations, requiring 500 voting alumni signatures, will be accepted until Feb. 2. Voting will take place from Apr. 1 through May 15, 2007.

Correction Appended

For the record: An article on Dec. 12 ("Alumni Council names trustee candidates") misstated that the proposed changes to the Alumni Constitution, which failed in October 2006, included lifting campaigning restrictions. The Alumni Council's Ballot Committee has always held the right to repeal the ban on campaigning, which it did recently.