Trustees meet, discuss university’s role in addressing challenges, both local and global


The Friday, Dec. 5, meeting of the Washington University in St. Louis Board of Trustees focused on the university’s role in addressing current challenges, both local and global, according to Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton.

The board also elected a new trustee. Alumnus Steven Cash Nickerson, JD, president and CFO of PDS Tech Inc. of Irving, Texas, was elected as a new Ethan A.H. Shepley Trustee for a four-year term ending in December 2018.

The board meeting opened with keynote addresses by Jason Q. Purnell, PhD, assistant professor in the Brown School, who discussed “For the Sake of All,” a landmark multidisciplinary study on African-American health and well-being in St. Louis; and by James V. Wertsch, PhD, vice chancellor for international affairs and the Marshall Snow Professor in Arts & Sciences, who discussed “The Role of Washington University in Addressing Global Challenges.”

Following the opening presentations, which included remarks by Wrighton on the meeting’s theme, “The Role of Washington University in Addressing Current Challenges: Local to Global,” the trustees broke into small groups to discuss related topics, including energy and the environment; food and water; global public health; and the local issues of race, disparity and social justice. University faculty and leadership facilitated the sessions.

In his report to the trustees, Wrighton reported on one of the new university efforts underway in response to the difficult issues that have come to the forefront since the Aug. 9 shooting death of Michael Brown. Wrighton said the Office of the Provost is establishing an academic seed fund, tentatively titled the Ferguson Academic Fund, under the direction of Adrienne D. Davis, JD, vice provost; and Dedric Carter, PhD, associate provost.

The goal for this fund is to provide small grants to Washington University faculty members to start new research initiatives, develop class content and modules, host discussion sessions, invite external scholars for residencies, and offer other intellectually engaging activities that help tackle the complex set of issues that have been in the spotlight since August.

Wrighton said the goal is not only to motivate current work being done, but also to engage colleagues who are interested in pursuing these issues for perhaps the first time. It is also hoped that colleagues from other universities in the region will participate with Washington University faculty in such activities through the fund.

The result will be a greater focus on, and more rapid movement toward, finding and implementing long-term, sustainable solutions. All would be part of a regionwide effort to address the disparities and social injustice underlying recent events.

A steering committee will help develop and publicize the fund and then review and award the grants.

Wrighton also noted that Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon recently appointed Rose Windmiller, assistant vice chancellor for government and community relations, to the 16-member Ferguson Commission.

Wrighton gave an update on construction projects on both the Danforth and Medical campuses.

He said great progress is being made on the Sumers Recreation Center, scheduled for completion in August 2016, and on the expansion of the Brown School and Institute for Public Health, with a June 2015 completion date.

Master planning continues for the East Campus, and a renovation of portions of the Women’s Building is complete.

Knight and Bauer halls are the latest university buildings to earn LEED Gold certification for their green design and construction. Home to Olin Business School, Knight and Bauer halls feature locally sourced and recycled materials, high-tech glass and an innovative layout that fosters collaboration.

Among the construction projects at the Medical Campus that Wrighton noted are the Environmental Health and Safety Building, with phase 1 to be completed by April, and the Duncan-Taylor garage, which will be open for 3,000 employee cars by September 2015.

The new Shriner’s Hospitals for Children — St. Louis, solely funded and managed by Shriner’s Hospitals, is expected to be completed this month on the Medical Campus.

Construction will begin in January on a two-story South County medical office building that will offer outpatient and same-day surgery medical services. A new off-site pediatric ambulatory center will be completed by July, and an expansion to the exam and support areas for patients at the Siteman Cancer Center will begin in February 2015.

Wrighton noted that both the men’s and women’s basketball teams are off to a good start, with a 6-0 record for the No. 4-ranked men’s basketball team and a 5-0 record for the No. 5-ranked women’s basketball team. The men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams combined to win 17 events as both teams finished first at the Illinois Wesleyan University Invitational.

He recognized the 25th anniversary of the volleyball team winning the Bears sports program’s first national title on Nov. 18, 1989, raising the bar for the entire athletic program moving forward. The volleyball team finished this season with a 35-6 record and advanced to the NCAA Regional Championship match for the 27th time in school history.

He also reported that head women’s basketball coach Nancy Fahey was inducted into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame in a special ceremony last month.

In his remarks to the board, Wrighton highlighted a number of recent university successes, among them alumnus W. E. Moerner, PhD, winning the Nobel Prize in chemistry. He also noted numerous faculty awards and recognitions, professorship installations, research awards and achievements, and student activities and achievements.

The chancellor also noted the recent deaths of three members of the Washington University community: Harold Blumenfeld, professor emeritus of music in Arts & Sciences, who died Nov. 1 at age 91; Herman Eisen, MD, former head of the Department of Molecular Microbiology at the School of Medicine, who died Nov. 2 at age 96; and Jill Lustberg, associate director of development for Olin Business School in Alumni & Development Programs, who died Nov. 12 at age 43.

In addition, the trustees heard reports from the following committees: development, educational policy, nominating and governance, and university finance; and received written reports from the audit, medical finance, university finance and the Alumni Board of Governors committees.

About Steven Cash Nickerson

Nickerson (JD ’85, MBA ’93) has led PDS Tech Inc. for 11 years. PDS Tech is one of the largest engineering and IT staffing firms in the United States, employing more than 10,000 people annually.

During his 30-year career, he has held a variety of legal and executive positions, including serving as an attorney and marketing executive for Union Pacific Railroad; an associate and then partner at Jenner & Block, one of Chicago’s five largest law firms; and chairman and CEO of an Internet company he took public through a reverse merger.

Nickerson earned a law degree and a master’s in business administration from Washington University, where he was an editor of the law review and a recipient of a U.S. Steel scholarship. Licensed to practice law in California, Nevada, Illinois, Nebraska and Texas, he is a member of the American, Los Angeles and Dallas bar associations.

An active alumnus, he serves as chair of both the North and Central Texas Regional Campaign as well as chair of the Dallas-Fort Worth Regional Cabinet. He is a member of the School of Law’s National Council and the Whitney R. Harris World Law Institute’s International Council.

Nickerson received a global philanthropy award from the university in 2010 for his support of the Crimes Against Humanity Initiative, a Distinguished Alumni Award from the School of Law in 2013, and a Distinguished Alumni Award from the university in 2014.

He is an avid martial artist, ranked as a third-degree black belt in Kenpo Karate, and is a Russian martial arts instructor.