20 Things You Didn’t Know About Gordon’s New Board of Trustees Leadership
The College’s Board of Trustees is under new leadership, and Homecoming will provide an opportunity for the Gordon community to meet these leaders at a “Conversation with the President.” On October 1 at 1 p.m., President Michael Lindsay will host Chairman of the Board of Trustees Herman J. Smith (pictured above, left) and Vice Chairman Myron “Mike” Ullman (pictured above, right) in a discussion on their individual backgrounds, professional journeys and vision for the College.
But before they step into the limelight, The Bell spoke with Ullman and Smith to learn more about the personalities behind the suits. Their résumés are impressive, to be sure, but there’s more to our chairman and vice chairman than meets the eye.
Herman J. Smith Jr. ’70, chairman of the Board of Trustees
Smith is a lifelong Bostonian who studied political science and history at Gordon. He earned a J.D. from Boston University School of Law in 1974 and was appointed an associate justice of the Housing Court, City of Boston Division in 1990. In 1994 he was appointed an associate justice of the Massachusetts Superior Court, where he served for 17 years until retirement. Smith began his term as chairman in February, and has been a member of Gordon’s Board of Trustees since 1983, serving in three presidents’ terms. Smith is also in his second term as moderator of the Board of Elders at Park Street Church.
- You might not know that Herman was one of the first Gordon alumni to attend law school.
- Professionally, he is most proud of becoming a Massachusetts Superior Court Judge.
- Personally, he is most proud of completing a 120-mile cycling daytrip to Provincetown, Massachusetts. “In the last 15 miles, every time I rode past a motel, I’d slow down,” he said.
- You might not know that he played on the basketball team at Gordon.
- He is currently reading Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance, an autobiographical social commentary based in the isolated subculture of Appalachia. Vance, whose upbringing Herman described as “intense and disturbing,” was embraced by a teacher who nurtured his education. Vance went on to graduate from Yale Law School.
- His favorite things to do in Boston include The Boston Pops on the Esplanade and the Fourth of July fireworks, enjoying the Charles River Basin, visiting museums (especially the Museum of Science—“I visit with friends who have children; I love seeing their faces light up,” he said), spending time in the Boston Commons and attending Handel’s Messiah every other year. “There’s something for everyone,” he said.
- By now, you might not be surprised to learn that Herman has a vinyl record collection of about 350 albums (classical, jazz, gospel and classic rock).
- If he could have dinner with any historical figure, it would be Booker T. Washington. Other figures who made the short list include George Washington Carver, both Martin Luther and Martin Luther King Jr., Brooks Robinson, W.E.B. Du Bois, Margaret Thatcher, Caesar Augustus, George Washington, Harry Truman, Ronald Reagan and Paul Newman. In conclusion, he cites his mother’s favorite hymn, which says, “But I want to meet Jesus.”
- Something he’d like you to know about the Board of Trustees is that the group is composed of individuals from around the country in many varying professional backgrounds. “These are devout Christians who care about Christian higher education, particularly Gordon College,” he said. “We’re not on the board for kudos or financial benefit.” It is the board’s duty, he says, to maintain the organization, keep it well-funded and see that Gordon sticks to its vision, a vision that is inspired by the Gordon community itself. Ultimately, this goal is to prepare students as servant leaders.
- His most fond memory of Gordon is the care he received from the faculty and coaches, as he was one of only about six or seven African American students at the College then. Professor Arno Kolz was especially influential, Smith said: “I mattered to him. He never had a question of my ability to prosper. …That’s a gift Gordon gives to you that you can’t measure.”
Myron “Mike” Ullman, vice chairman of the Board of Trustees
Ullman has led five major enterprises on three continents (he’s lived in Europe, Asia and the U.S.), most recently serving as CEO of J.C. Penney until 2011. When he returned for another two years in 2013, he was largely responsible for rescuing J.C. Penney from folding. Ullman joined Gordon’s board in 2013 and also serves on the board of Starbucks Coffee Company; the board of FIRST, a charity that sponsors robotics competitions designed to motivate youth to pursue education and STEM careers; and the chairman of the board of Mercy Ships International, a global medical and human services charity. He is the former chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.
- You might not know that Mike instated the Sephora shops inside of J.C. Penney.
- Professionally, he is most proud of becoming the chief business officer of the University of Cincinnati at age 29. “It was a big assignment and I had very little experience,” he said. The experience taught him many healthy leadership methods that he carried into the rest of his career.
- Personally, he is most proud of being selected for the prestigious White House Fellowship in 1982. “Even though I was dyslexic and not a great student, I was able to use other skills to be a fellow and try to do the best I could,” he said. “What you learn is to use what you’ve got.”
- Something you won’t learn about Mike just by Googling his name is “I like to think that I don’t take myself too seriously, but I take what I do pretty seriously.” Approaching his 70th birthday, he spends time considering “what matters.” More than anything, he wants his six children to have character, strong faith and to know right from wrong.
- You might not know that Mike and his wife, Cathy, have four biological sons and two adopted daughters from Hong Kong.
- His favorite vacation spot is his family’s place near Glacier National Park in Montana, where the whole family spends time during the summer (his parents have 27 grandchildren!).
- On a Saturday night, you can find him enjoying small-town Colorado with his wife and good friends.
- If he could have dinner with any historical figure, it would be (without hesitation) Jesus Christ. He would also invite his close friend and mentor to join, even though he’s not a historical figure.
- To get going in the mornings, he listens to tapes by prominent author and pastor Tim Keller. “I’ve probably listened to more Tim Keller tapes than Tim has,” he said.
- Something he’d like you to know about the Board of Trustees is that the Board believes in the principles of the commitment to Christian education. Mike describes governing boards as an organism: “You have people there who obviously care about the College; they have a long history as a student there or a graduate student, as an alum,” he says. “Pressure is on small colleges, so it’s not for the faint of heart. Most people, if they look at it carefully, would realize it’s not easy, but is also a very worthwhile enterprise.”
Conversation with the President: An Interview with the Board Leadership
October 1, 2016, 1–2 p.m.
Gregory Auditorium, Jenks Library (room 237)