Longest-sitting board chair in College history to step down June 30
Paul E. Raether ’68, P’93, ’96, ’01 has served as a member of Trinity’s Board of Trustees since 1989 and as its chair since 2002, making him the longest-sitting chair of the board in the history of the College. The Reporter reached out to four people who know him well–Peter Blum, Tom Johnson, Bill Reynolds, and chair-elect Cornie Thornburgh–for their thoughts on his time at Trinity.
Cornelia Parsons Thornburgh ’80
Chair-elect, Board of Trustees
“Two critical jobs exist on any large boat: helmsman and navigator. Without their skills and close partnership, there is a good likelihood the boat will flounder. Fair weather or foul, Trinity’s helmsman, President Jones, has always been visible at the wheel with a marked chart to steer the ship by, a chart set by the Board of Trustees working with the administration. Similarly, the board relies most heavily upon another key member of the College’s crew–Paul Raether, our tried-and-true navigator.
“The navigator is in charge of knowing where a vessel is at all times. By daylight, when buoys are easily visible and land is always in sight, this is an easy task. In the dark when landmarks are not apparent, the job of the navigator is crucial. Guiding a college is a 24/7 job and one that requires constant vigilance.
“With Jimmy Jones at the helm and Paul Raether as our navigator, Trinity has been blessed to steer a true course along both calm and choppy seas. Paul has been this board’s navigator for close to 12 years. He has ensured Trinity navigates the increasingly tricky shoals that have developed in the current seascape that is American higher education.
“My experience serving under Paul’s watch has been both inspiration and guide as I prepare to take on the role of navigator as Trinity’s next board chair. Fortunately, technology ensures that our retired navigator will never be out of range, and I look forward to relying upon his expertise and experience in mentoring my watch going forward. Thank you, Paul, for guiding our ship so ably.”
Peter Blum ’72, P’12
Former Member, Board of Trustees
“When I joined the board in 2002, Paul was already at the head of the table–and it was clear why he’d earned his position as chairman. He was observant, and he listened hard. He was wise, informed, and decisive. He solicited others’ opinions enthusiastically (genuinely and generously) but always had one of his own. He conveyed great respect for the people at the table, for the process, and for our institution. He set, by example, a very high bar, or, as the students might say, ‘Don’t show up unless you’ve brought your A-game!’
“But it’s more than leadership that defines Paul; it’s loyalty. Paul makes enormous time for Trinity–arriving on campus a day ahead of the rest of us, staying late (especially for football), attending faculty dinners–these things take time and reflect brilliantly his fierce desire for Trinity to win, and not just within NESCAC. Paul’s competitive spirit, and his pride in Trinity, are compelling and contagious–and make you not want to let him or the institution down. You know he always has your back.
“As chair, Paul made it obvious that he needed you to contribute and that he wanted you to succeed. He was a leader for whom you’d walk through walls–and we did, as best we could–his determination never flagged. All this, delivered with his quick laughter, tremendous stories, and great personal warmth.
“Each of us, all of us, should reflect upon the extraordinary, encompassing commitment that Paul has made to Trinity. We scored important wins on his watch, and our College is far the better for his having led us.”
William H. Reynolds, Jr. ’71
Secretary of the College, Emeritus; Former Member, Board of Trustees
“Paul Raether provides commitment and performance across the full spectrum of his ever-busy life. Each educational institution that helped to shape his adulthood–Colorado Academy, Trinity College, Dartmouth’s Amos Tuck School–has reaped the rewards of his time, his creative thinking, and his generosity. Trinity is beyond fortunate to count Paul among its leaders and alumni.
“With Paul as board chair, we had a team that met tough issues head on and jumped on opportunities with passion. We did so within the embrace of a leader who never failed to see the humor in life in all moments and who made sure everyone was heard. Paul was intentional about getting to know his board members and their interests and issues. As a result, the board’s efforts and accountability to itself reflected Paul’s energy and integrity. No one worked harder than Paul during his tenure.
“Paul epitomizes those qualities of Trinity that I hold most dear. He is a leader by example and is with you in the trenches. He is a ‘happy warrior,’ and that infuses those around him with confidence. I can honestly say that Paul never forgets what you have said to him, and he never forgets his promises and decisions. That quality and the sincerity behind it embody being a Bantam.”
Thomas S. Johnson ’62, P’97, H’05
Former Member and Chairman, Board of Trustees
“Paul Raether is one of the most low-key and self-effacing leaders that I have known. He doesn’t project himself in a self-serving or egotistical way. If you observe his facial expressions and sense of humor, you’ll see a person who leads by being a supporter and constant member of the group rather than by imposing his views in any way. He leads in a way that’s very comfortable for people.
“One of the most telling aspects of his character, in my observation of Paul, is that his financial contributions to Trinity were anonymous. I think it was I who finally had to go to him and explain that there’s a constructive reason to put his name on a contribution, that we wanted him to be an example to others. It’s very much for the good of the College. He came to it reluctantly, never really wanted anything for himself by way of ego satisfaction.
“His dedication to the kind of hands-on education that Trinity College gives comes through in his actions and the supportive way in which he helps others to do their jobs. I think that securing the true liberal arts quality of the College would have to count as the overall summary of his accomplishments.”
Photos by John Atashian, Al Ferreira, Nick Lacy, and John Marinelli