Regent Interviews: Gretchen Morgensohn '76, Pulitzer Price-Winning Journalist
Background: What is the Board of Regents?
The St. Olaf Board of Regents is the strategic governing body of the college, responsible for the college’s mission, goals and priorities, academic quality, fiscal integrity, and legal affairs. The Board also appoints and regularly assesses the performance of the college president. The Board does not handle the day-to-day management of the College, but instead focuses on long term planning and the “big picture” of the college’s overall well-being. The Board’s purpose is to advance the mission of St. Olaf while ensuring its lasting viability.
The Regents are highly accomplished professionals from various fields, many of whom are St. Olaf alumni. They are volunteers who contribute significant time, expertise, and financial resources to the College. Much of their work is accomplished through multiple standing committees, as well as special-purpose task forces that the Board Chair appoints from time to time to address particularly pressing issues as they arise. The composition of the Board is becoming increasingly diverse as it evolves to reflect the St. Olaf community. The selection process is rigorous, including nomination from current Regents, interviews, and a vote by the Board as a whole. Each new Regent is assigned to a current Regent mentor as part of their orientation to the Board. Regents are deeply invested in the success of St. Olaf. The construction of Regents Hall, the renovation of Holland Hall, and the establishment of the Taylor Center, the Lutheran Center, and the Piper Center were all made possible through Regent study, decision making and financial support.
To learn more about the people who are serving St. Olaf as Regents, the Board of Regents Student Committee (BORSC) is conducting interviews with current Board members.
Regent Gretchen Morgenson '76
On March 11, 2021, Providence Diomedi ’23 and Fenton Krupp ’24 met with Regent Gretchen Morgenson ’76, an accomplished investigative journalist who won a Pulitzer Prize in 2002 for her “trenchant and incisive Wall Street coverage.” Regent Morgenson has fond memories of her time at St. Olaf; she credits her first-year English class as being a pivotal moment in her writing career, giving her the skills she needed to succeed as a journalist. She also recognizes the importance of the people she met at the College, peers with whom she remains friends to this day. Regent Morgenson works as a senior financial reporter in the Investigations unit at NBC News.
Regent Morgenson was elected to the Board in 2012. She cares about St. Olaf College, and her passion is evident in her willingness to critique the institution. She also serves on two Board committees: the Audit Committee, and the Finance Committee. Her professional background helps her to ensure the College is making the most effective and equitable use of its financial resources. She highlighted retirement funding as one example—on one hand, it is important to provide for faculty and staff who give so much to the College, but at the same time the College must remain aware of the constant distribution and redistribution of funds across all areas. This balancing act is what appeals to Regent Morgenson, as the College has much more than shareholders at stake: between students, faculty, staff, administration, and the community of Northfield, there are countless people whose interests the College must take into account. Making sure that difficult questions are asked is fundamental to her work in both her professional and Board roles, and there is no doubt that she raises pressing financial questions as needed. However, Regent Morgenson contends that the Board of Regents and the entire College has a competent administrative team, and she draws a distinction between the Board’s power structure and the power structures of the publicly traded companies she reports on. Regent Morgenson praises the Board of Regents as being highly collaborative and singles out Chair Jay Lund as an effective leader who elicits perspectives on all sides of Board matters.
Regent Morgenson stresses the importance of transparency and communication on the Board, and it’s clear this transparency is essential in her professional life: she includes her email address at the end of each article she writes. After a lifetime of hard-hitting journalism, Regent Morgenson remains committed to St. Olaf and attends concerts by the College’s choirs and bands as often as she can when they perform in her home state of New York. Regent Morgenson invites any comments, questions, or criticisms of the Board of Regents or College, and she can be reached at her NBC email address: firstname.lastname@example.org