After several interview requests sent to Notre Dame trustees were denied and redirected to Board Secretariat Fr. James McDonald, C.S.C., The Irish Rover interviewed Fr. McDonald, associate vice president of the university and counselor to President John Jenkins, C.S.C.

“It is quite common for organizations to speak with a single institutional voice,” Fr. McDonald said. He continued by explaining that the Office of the Board Secretariat “was organized to help the Trustees accomplish their own responsibilities in a productive manner.” As reported in past issues of The Rover, some trustee members hold positions that are at odds with Church teaching on much-debated ethical issues.

The Rover asked Fr. McDonald what role these positions play in the decisions of the board, particularly in regard to the board’s long-term goals. In response, Fr. McDonald stated, “Each member of the Board brings special talents and insights that provide the University’s leadership as a whole with valuable and varied views on a wide range of issues.”

“These men and women of varied skills and perspectives – but all with a fierce allegiance to this University – have helped us experience tremendous growth in every way while maintaining an unwavering commitment to our Catholic identity,” Fr. McDonald further explained.

“Practically speaking,” said Fr. McDonald, “the Trustees provide guidance and leadership, yet do not micromanage the University.” The bylaws of the university structure the university’s governance so that the president of Notre Dame answers to the Board of Trustees, who in turn answers to the Board of Fellows. The Board of Trustees comprises a mixed group of lay and religious members of no less than 30 but no more than 60 in number.

In 1984, the board introduced two positions on the board for recent graduates of the university under 30 years old, “one male, the other female, to provide the perspectives of recent alumni,” according to Fr. McDonald. As outlined in the university bylaws, the positions are strictly limited to three-year terms and are not included in the number of trustees previously fixed by the fellows of the university.

Kathleen M. Fox currently holds one of these positions.  Fox graduated summa cum laude from Notre Dame in 2007 with a double major in philosophy and theology. She was distinguished for excellence in theology when she earned the Rev. John H. Cavanaugh, C.S.C., Award.

Fox also led The Shirt Project in 2005, held internships with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the British Parliament, and debuted in Notre Dame’s first annual Forum in 2005, “Why God? Understanding Religion and Enacting Faith in a Plural World.”  More recently, Fox received her JD degree this past June from the Stanford Law School, where she was active in the Stanford Public Interest Law Foundation and the Guardianship Pro Bono Program.

David M. Baron occupies the other recent-graduate position on the Board. In 2006, Baron graduated magna cum laude from Notre Dame with a bachelor’s degree in political science and economics.  As an undergraduate, Baron served as president of the student government from 2005-2006 and was later recognized for his service with the 2006 Rev. A. Leonard Collins, C.S.C., Award. 

Additionally, Baron co-founded Men Against Violence and interned beneath Sen. Evan Bayh for the Faith in Public Life organization based in Washington, D.C. Baron went on to receive his JD degree from Harvard Law School in May 2009. While pursuing his degree, Baron actively participated in the Catholic Law Students association on campus. Baron currently works in Chicago as an associate for Sidley Austin LLP. He practices for the firm’s Commercial, Competition, and Securities Litigation Group.

Elected to the board of trustees in 2008, both Baron and Fox will conclude their terms in May. Baron and Fox denied personal interviews and directed The Rover to send questions to the Board Secretariat.

Each elected trustee serves a 5-year term, after which the trustee emeritus may be re-nominated by the chairman of the board and the president for another five-year term. The retirement age for any member of the board is 70, except in the case of the chairman, who may serve until 72 years of age.

The board of trustees meets three times in the fall, winter, and spring of each academic year but may hold additional meetings at the chairman’s discretion. The board meets and operates under the following 13 standing committees: the Executive Committee, the Governance and Nominating Committee, the Academic and Faculty Affairs Committee, the Student Affairs Committee, the Investment Committee, the Finance Committee, the University Relations/Public Affairs and Communication Committee, the Committee on Social Values and Responsibilities, the Audit Committee, the Committee on Athletic Affairs, the Facilities and Campus Planning Committee, the Compensation Committee and the International Facilities Committee.

The university bylaws include a policy for appeals to the board of trustees. Disputes may be received by the Office of the President and the president can forward any dispute to the board “if the matter is of serious importance.” The board may then attend to the matter “en banc or through an ad hoc committee of not less than three members of the board who shall be appointed by the chairman.”

Since Ray is not a Notre Dame trustee, you can contact him any time at He’d love to hear from you.