Trustee Spotlight - Jill Smith '74
In April, Jill Smith ’74 was elected to become the chairwoman of Doane’s Board of Trustees. Having served more than 18 years on the Board and coming from a successful career that included working as senior counsel for the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, this Crete native is blazing a trail for Doane to thrive in the ever-changing landscape of higher education.
What direction would you like to see Doane take while you serve as chairwoman?
As always, we must keep Doane a strong, vibrant and unique liberal arts institution. This is a particularly difficult time for small colleges. As the cost of higher education grows, we must find ways to keep Doane affordable without losing the personal touch that makes Doane so special. I’m excited about our move to invigorate our adult education programs and to add more online offerings. This will allow us to bring the unique Doane experience to a much broader group of students.
What are you currently working on with the Board of Trustees?
Recently, the biggest project has been the launch of a new adult education plan. Doane needs to expand its offerings to reach those learners who would rather take classes online than in the classroom. This will be a large and new undertaking for Doane but I am very confident in the leadership of Dr. Carter, the cabinet and the faculty. Doane, as always, will develop a unique set of offerings that will continue the strong traditions of innovation and individualized attention.
What are the biggest challenges the Board currently faces?
The Board is always most concerned about keeping the college financially stable. This has been very important as other small liberal arts colleges have suffered over the last several years. With the excellent work of our presidents and cabinet, we have always had a balanced budget, usually with a little extra to add to endowment or back into programs. This has allowed our endowment to grow and to return a yearly percentage to the college for its annual budget.
What has been a highlight for you during your time as a trustee?
The highlight for me is being able to stay connected and involved with the college I love and to help it continue to thrive for generations to come.
What was your college experience like at Doane?
I grew up in Crete across the street from the football field. My sisters and I played on the campus and went to Doane football games. I took piano lessons in The Con from Dr. (James) Bastian starting in eighth grade. Both of my parents, my sisters, my aunts and uncles and a couple of my Osterhout cousins all went to Doane. Doane was always a part of my life so when I was choosing a college, I really didn’t consider anything other than Doane. I met lifelong friends at Doane, experienced a semester abroad in Denmark and graduated with a history major under Dr. (Kenneth) Rossman.
How did Doane shape you?
I attribute much of my success to both the great preparation I received in the Crete Public Schools and at Doane College. I received a Fulbright Scholarship to Germany, much to the credit of Dr. (Erika) Barton, the German professor at Doane. The experiences I had at Doane—as well as my time studying in Copenhagen, Denmark, and Germany—were life changing. The education I received helped me develop the analytical skills and discipline to successfully complete law school and eventually become general counsel of Mayo Clinic.
What do you see in Doane’s future?
I see a very bright future for Doane. We have an excellent class of first-year students in Crete, we are refocusing efforts on our programs in Lincoln, Grand Island and Omaha, we are poised to begin offering full degrees online and we have a newly completed revision of the curriculum for the Crete campus.