Yale News

Joshua Bekenstein ’80 is the newest senior trustee of the Yale Corporation, the University’s highest governing body.

Bekenstein has served as a trustee since 2013, where he was the chair of the Corporation’s School of Medicine committee and Development and Alumni Affairs committee. The senior trustee is selected by University President Peter Salovey in consultation with the other trustees on the Corporation, and Bekenstein will be succeeding Catharine Bond Hill GRD ’85, who served in that role from 2018 until the end of her most recent term on June 30.

“Josh Bekenstein brings a life-long love for Yale to his role as senior trustee, as well as exceptional long-term service to the university,” Salovey wrote in an email to the News. “From the time of his appointment as a trustee in 2013, he has lent superb judgment, true collegiality, and sustained focus to the work of the Board.”

Bekenstein spoke with the News about his past service on the Corporation, what he hopes to achieve in the role of senior trustee and what he considers to be the most significant challenges facing the University in the coming years. 

“It’s really the job of the senior trustee, to listen to the other trustees, and coordinate with Peter [Salovey] to make sure that we spend our time together effectively, talking about the most complex, biggest issues University has, so that the Board will be aligned with management,” Bekenstein said.  “And once the decision is made, you know, you need the Board and the management team to be all focus[ed] and agreed on the direction.”

He further described the role of the senior trustee as an interlocutor between the trustees and their varied concerns and the President’s Office, while also keeping the group “organized and structured.” Crucial to the role of senior trustee is understanding the relationship between the Board and the management of the University, Bekenstein said.

“The relationship between the Board and management is fascinating, because on the one hand, the Board is ultimately responsible for the big decisions, whether it be a university or a hospital or for profit business,” he explained. “But obviously, the Board isn’t running the business, or the hospital … the university is being run by the management team. And so it’s very important to have the right level of involvement.”

Bekenstein pointed to his predecessor, Hill, as a model for a successful senior trustee. In recognizing the true role of the Corporation, Hill kept the group focused on the important long-term strategic issues of the University, rather than micromanaging every issue that appeared on their radar, he said. This is especially difficult in an era when the news moves much faster due to the internet — so that element of the Senior Trustee’s role is particularly important, he added.

In particular, Bekenstein commented on the way the Board approached the issue of the pandemic. 

“The management team did an amazing job, I think of getting Yale open, keeping it open, keeping it open safely and dealing with everything,” Bekenstein added. “And we as trustees … didn’t try to micromanage … in any way.”

In an email to the News, Hill further described the role of a senior trustee in maintaining the balance of roles between administrators and the Board.

“The senior trustee works with the president to ensure that the Board is working effectively to support the university’s mission and priorities,” she wrote. “The senior trustee also works with the president and other members of the administration to help the university engage the trustees in ways that leverage their experiences and expertise to benefit the university.”

As Bekenstein enters his role as senior trustee, one of the Board’s main focuses will be the upcoming capital campaign, which is still in its silent phase but is entering its public stage in October. Bekenstein will serve as a co-chair of the campaign.

Salovey noted the significant role the campaign has in the future of the University.

“Yale’s campaign is designed to ensure the next big step forward for the university, and its conception benefited greatly from the careful consideration of the Board as a whole,” Salovey said. “As the campaign enters its public phase, having Josh actively engaged in its execution as a campaign co-chair will be of great value.”

The Yale Corporation will meet five times in the coming academic year.

Philip Mousavizadeh covers Woodbridge Hall, the President's Office. He previously covered the Jackson Institute. He is a sophomore in Trumbull College studying Ethics, Politics, and Economics