By Steven Viera || Senior Editor
When Sue L. Washburn ’73 first arrived on F&M’s campus, she did so as a member of the first cohort of female students to attend the College; today, she is the newly-elected chair of the Board of Trustees, and the first alumna to hold the position.
“It was incredibly, incredibly intellectually stimulating,” she said of her experience as a student. “It was a time of great activism, in the country and on campus. I don’t think I realized it as much at the time I was going through it—particularly as a first-year student—how consciousness-raising it was.”
In 1969, F&M admitted approximately 120 women, about 80 first-years and 40 transfers, to the previously all-male school that still boasted nearly 1600 men as students. Washburn recalled that, owing to the small number of women in classes, professors would occasionally ask female students, “What do women think?”
“The College was evolving in terms of how to be a co-educational institution,” she said.
Washburn also recalled the spirit of activism that thrived at F&M during her years as a student and how fellow Fummers would voice their opinions on such issues as the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights Movement, the Women’s Movement, and myriad others using a forum that still occupies a central place on campus: The Protest Tree. She added that students today have even more ways to share their voices than when she was an undergraduate and tackle such issues as war, social justice, the environment.
Since 1995, Washburn has served on the Board of Trustees in multiple capacities, sitting on several committees and chairing many others. She said some of her proudest accomplishments as a trustee include serving on the Presidential Search committees in 2001-2002 and 2010 that resulted in John Fry and Dan Porterfield, respectively, becoming presidents of the College.
“It was a very dedicated committee of students, faculty, staff, and trustees working together in common cause to bring our next president to the campus,” she said.
Beyond the Board of Trustees, Washburn—who, in addition to a bachelor’s degree in English from F&M, holds a master’s degree in management and marketing from Clarkson University and has completed advanced study at Harvard University’s Institute for Educational Management—has served as the vice-president of multiple colleges, including St. Lawrence University and Centenary College. She also co-founded her own firm, Washburn & McGoldrick, LLC, which consults with colleges, universities, and other schools in areas such as marketing, strategic planning, alumni and donor relations, and more.
“I’ve had the opportunity to be exposed to a lot of different institutions,” she said. “The firm that I started 20 years ago with my business partner has worked with almost 200 institutions in the U.S. and outside the U.S.—in Canada, in the U.K., in Australia—and, as much as I share my expertise and knowledge, I learned something at every institution that helps to inform how I think about what possibilities are before us. And that’s exciting, because if you’re open to it, you can learn something important in every single environment that you find yourself in… We have a lot to learn from each other.”
Washburn, who lives in Lancaster, will begin her three-year term as chair of the Board of Trustees on July 1, 2016. She succeeds Lawrence I. Bonchek, M.D., P ’91, who served F&M for two consecutive terms as chair of the Board of Trustees.
“I look forward to working with [Dr. Bonchek] this year and to carrying on his legacy of leadership, and I hope that there are opportunities to provide more recognition for Franklin & Marshall—particularly more recognition in the public space,” she said.
“A big reason that I’m involved here is because I want students to be able to have the kind of opportunity that I had—which was life changing—and to be exposed to the kind of faculty that I had the privilege of being exposed to,” she continued. “And I want to help make that possible for students who are here now and for future generations as well.”