Melissa Hernandez, Contributing Writer
The University of Dallas Board of Trustees has recently appointed five new members to its ranks, including three parents of UD students and two alumni.
Ranging from public servants to attorneys to businesswomen, the new appointees bring to the table diverse experiences as well as familiarity with UD.
A press release posted on the UD website offers some background on the new appointees.
Kevin Hasson, prominent attorney and parent to junior Brigid Hasson, earned a master’s degree in theology and a law degree from the University of Notre Dame. He served at the U.S. Department of Justice as a legal counsel, and in 1994 founded the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty in Washington, D.C., where he currently lives.
Donna Weitzman, a Harvard alumnus and former mayor of Colleyville, Texas, joined the board with 15 years of business leadership experience and more than 15 years of experience in real estate investment. Her leadership experience is extensive and she has served on various boards before this new position.
Bridgett Wagner, parent of sophomore Chris Wagner and alumnus ’81, joined the board. She is the director of the Coalition Relations Department at The Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C. She serves as “The Heritage Foundation’s liaison to policy organizations, experts and activists at the state, national and international level,” according to the foundation’s website. She graduated from UD with a bachelor’s degree in economics.
Fr. Greg Kelly, UD class of ’78, is the vicar for clergy for the Catholic Diocese of Dallas and a former chaplain of UD. He was ordained in May 1982 and was the founding pastor of St. Gabriel the Archangel parish in McKinney, Texas.
Lora Villarreal, named one of Hispanic Business magazine’s “Top Five Hispanic Women of the Year” in 2008, is an influential Catholic Hispanic businesswoman, an active benefactor in the health community and an executive for Xerox Services. President Thomas Keefe said Villarreal possesses considerable skills to offer to the board, especially in the area of human resources. Keefe said ethnic diversity is an important aspect to keep in mind when choosing members to reflect the students at UD.
“Approximately 20 percent of the students at UD are Hispanic,” Keefe said, “It’s important for us to have Hispanic individuals on the board to provide leadership.”
Not only ethnic diversity but also geographical diversity is taken into consideration when choosing members of the Board of Trustees.
“We seek geographical diversity; we are the most national university in Texas,” Keefe said. “58 percent of our current students are from outside of Texas; therefore we try to respect the geographic diversity by adding members outside of Texas.”
The lengthy process of choosing new members begins with a nomination of individuals by parents, alumni and current board members to the Board of Affairs Committee. Nominations are accepted as the president and staff assure nominees’ compatibility with the board through background checks and meetings with the individuals. If one is selected as a nominee, his or her nomination is forwarded to the board, which discusses and votes on the matter. Keefe said members have shown an interest in supporting the mission of UD and usually fall into at least one of three categories: alumni, parents, or members of the Catholic community. All board members are required to follow the teachings and uphold the values of the Catholic Church.
“After the university has been in existence for 50-some years, there is a body of alumni and parents who are now able to step forward and assume a leadership role at the university,” Keefe said. “And so we see more and more alumni and parents being asked to serve on the board than ever before.”
The board is made up of 34 members who meet four times a year and play an influential role at UD by providing financial integrity and stability to the university, as well as ensuring its academic quality. Among the tasks the board has accomplished are the establishment of a Real Estate Committee, the appointment of Keefe to the position of president, the recent renovation of Haggar Student Center, and the creation of the School of Ministry, the College of Business and the undergraduate degree in pastoral ministry.
According to Keefe, the Board of Trustees takes on the important role of governing the university and maintaining it as an independent, nonprofit, non-taxable corporation. Although there are a few members from the east and west coasts, the majority reside in Texas due to the cost of travel, since the members are not paid for their service. The board is vital to the university as it provides the biggest revenue to UD through both donations and fundraising. This year the board plans to discuss
a strategic planning process, real estate and a campus master plan board.
“The [Board of Trustees] is the largest contributor to the University,” Keefe said. “Financially, they do more to support the University than any other group.”
A photo of Donna Weitzman was not available.