Vassar Salutes Retiring Board Members
Five members of Vassar’s Board of Trustees retired this summer after serving a total of exactly 100 years. But the trustee with the longest tenure of the five, Geraldine Bond Laybourne ’69, P’93 (two stints totaling 23 years), said she and her fellow retirees were confident the board—and the College—are in good hands.
“The last time I left, I didn’t feel like a full person coming off the board,” Laybourne said. “But this time, the board is in great shape, and the relationship with the administration is fantastic. All of the people around the table have so much respect for each other and care so much for the College. I didn’t have a breakdown when I left this time.”
The other four retiring trustees—Steve Hankins ’85, P’13,’17, Missie Rennie Taylor ’68, Maryellen Herringer ’65, and Philip Jefferson ’83—joined Laybourne in praising their fellow board members and reiterating their faith in Vassar’s future under its current leadership. “I can’t think of a time when Vassar wasn’t in my life,” said Taylor. “When I first joined the board, I was one of the younger trustees, and I learned from those who were older and wiser. As I leave the board, I realize how much I’ve learned from those who are younger and wiser.”
The five new trustees, whose terms began July 1, are Eric Liu ’08, Francesca Gutierrez Amann ’91, Amy Gurley P ’26, Ernie Ceberio ’94, and Patrick DeYoung ’18. (For information, see the Board of Trustees website.) In addition to his appointment to the Board of Trustees, DeYoung is starting his second term as part of a new slate of officers of the Alumnae/i Association of Vassar College (AAVC). Monica Vachher ’77 is the new AAVC President.
Hankins leaves the board with 17 years of service as a trustee and a total of more than 30 years of volunteering for the College, including a recent stint as AAVC President. And given his Vassar legacy—more than 20 members of his family are Vassar grads—that’s not surprising. “I was the first male [in the family] to enroll, but Vassar was where people in my family were going to college for generations,” he said.
Early in his tenure on the board, Hankins worked closely with then-President Frances Fergusson and Director of Athletics Andy Jennings to upgrade the College’s athletic facilities and programs.
Toward the end of his tenure as a trustee, Hankins helped enhance fund-raising by supporting efforts to launch the Student Philanthropy Council. During his years of service, he was an advocate and champion for student and young-alums engagement with Vassar. Upon his retirement, the College created the Steve Hankins ’85 Spirit of Student Philanthropy Award, which will be awarded annually to a graduating senior. He was also instrumental in the launch of the Parent Leadership Council, a group of parent donors who are committed to the support and development of Vassar College. His leadership among College parents inspired a vibrant culture of parent involvement and activity.
“My Aunt Sally (Lyman Rheinfrank ’63) was a board member,” Hankins said, “and one of the things she instilled in me was, when you graduate from Vassar, you give back to Vassar.”
Jefferson, who was required to step down from the board as well as his duties as Vice President for Academic Affairs at Davidson College when he was named by President Biden to the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve, said, “It was a privilege to serve for 20 years on the board of my alma mater.” During that time, he had many roles, including Chair of the Technology and Academic Affairs committees of the Board of Trustees and as a member of the AAVC Board. He also served on the Presidential Search Committee that brought President Elizabeth Bradley to Vassar.
Herringer, who was a trustee for a total of 20 years under four Vassar presidents, was one of the board’s chief financial stewards, serving as Chair of the Audit Committee for much of her tenure. She said she inherited her love for education from her mother, who was a teacher, and she made it a priority that Vassar was accessible to all students regardless of their families’ resources. “It’s important to me that Vassar is a needs-blind college,” she said.
Herringer served with Laybourne and Jefferson on the Presidential Search Committee that led to the appointment of Elizabeth H. Bradley, which she described as one of the board’s most notable achievements. “Betsy is a superstar, and we all want to do whatever we can to ensure she has the resources to accomplish her goals,” she said. “One of the things I’m most proud of during my tenure [is having been] a member of that Search Committee.”
Herringer said she intended to keep in touch with current and former trustees. “I consider that a continuing role of mine at the College,” she said, “and all of us should continue to keep an eye out for the next generation of board members as well.”
Vachher, who served as Vice President of the AAVC in 2021 and previously chaired the Nominating Committee, praised her two predecessors, Hankins and Taylor, for their stewardship of the organization. “Steve and Missie both did a remarkable job of professionalizing the organization,” she said. “It’s quite an extraordinary honor to have this position and [to be] taking the next steps in its development.
“The key to the success of AAVC is engagement,” Vachher said, “supporting our alums and supporting the College through advocacy, recruitment, and fund-raising.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the AAVC learned the value of engaging with its members through virtual platforms such as Zoom, and Vachher said that form of engagement would continue. “We are going to spend more time engaging our global network—Vassar alums live everywhere,” she said, “and this kind of outreach has proven to be effective.”