Yale officials’ corporate ties often extend beyond the Yale Corporation, the University’s highest decision-making body, and into the boardrooms of some of the most prominent businesses in the United States.
Several top Yale administrators sit on the boards of telecommunications, technology and publishing companies — businesses that do not pertain to the University’s primary operations. Yale President Richard Levin, Secretary Linda Lorimer and Vice President of Finance and Administration John Pepper serve as directors of a combined seven boards, for corporations ranging from Sprint and Motorola to McGraw-Hill and Xerox.
Although as directors they are not involved with day-to-day corporate management, Yale officials said their work in corporate oversight has supplied them with policy ideas to implement at the University. Lorimer, who sits on Sprint’s board, said she plans to share ideas to enhance workplace diversity at Yale using ideas that she first learned at a recent board meeting.
“I’m always on the lookout for what might be imported into the Yale experience,” said Lorimer, who also serves on the board of publishing giant McGraw-Hill. “It has been a continuing learning experience for me to see how other major institutions conduct their business.”
Levin said the mission of a university is more complex than the primary objective of a corporation, which is to increase the value of the company’s stock for its shareholders. But he said that since he began serving on corporate boards a couple of years ago, he has been able to learn new methods of financial management and data organization to implement at Yale.
“It does give you an interesting perspective,” Levin said. “I’ve definitely brought back some ideas to Yale that have helped out.”
Levin travels to his native state of California about four times a year to attend board meetings for Satmetrix, Inc., a Silicon Valley software and services company that survived the bursting of the technology bubble in the late 1990s. Levin, who has served on the Satmetrix board for the last two years, has brought keen insights, a sense of integrity and a global mindset to board meetings, Satmetrix Chairman Andre Schwager said.
“He raises the level of the whole board,” Schwager said. “His values are very consistent with our values.”
Levin said the trips do not interfere with his work in New Haven, and he tries to combine them with business on behalf of Yale, oftentimes combining fund-raising events with his board meetings.
Pepper said his work on the Motorola and Xerox boards is complementary to his duties at Yale, which have focused on making the University run more efficiently in the areas of human resources and energy consumption.
“The fundamentals of what make each work have much more in common than they are different,” said Pepper, who served as the chairman and chief executive of Proctor and Gamble from 1995 to 2002 before taking his current position at Yale. “What’s the same is people are really intelligent, they care about the place and they expect to be leaders.”
As a benefit for serving on corporate boards, University officials have hefty investments in the companies that they oversee. As last year’s filing with the U.S. Security and Exchanges Commission, Levin held 84,428 shares of Lucent Technologies, which would be worth about $277,768 today. Lorimer holds about $302,698 in McGraw-Hill stocks and at least $190,528 worth of stocks in Sprint. Meanwhile, Pepper, who sits on three corporate boards, holds about $126,240 in Xerox stocks, $954,256 in Boston Scientific Corp. stocks and $608,029 in Motorola stocks, according to recent filings.
The University has not received complaints that its officials have ties to large corporations, Yale spokeswoman Helaine Klasky said.
“They chose very careful and they’re all very reputable companies,” Klasky said. “I think one thing you learn is good governance practices kind of transcend organizations.”