The role and influence of the college presidential spouse
Thompson, Matthew Richard
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No matter the level of involvement a college presidential spouse chooses, they are a reflection of the college community. The board of trustees often does not discuss or fully recognize the ways a spouse serves. Presidential spouses play a vital role not only in encouraging the president, but also in college entertaining and community relations, which are the essence of the college presidency. These roles translate into wooing prospective students, attracting potential donors, and garnering the support of the local community. Yet, very few presidential spouses are given the opportunity to discuss the expectations of these various roles, how their own talents and interests can benefit the college, or even participate in a formal interview. In this study, I examine the role and influence of the college presidential spouse, using a mixed methods approach. As the literature review indicates, this topic has received little attention. This oversight ignores the significant contribution that spouses play in shaping and supporting presidents and institutions. Because there are expectations of the spouse, boards of trustees must take seriously the selection of the presidential team. Spouses are more than just an added benefit. The board must recognize how often the presidential spouse becomes an embodiment of the institution and is important in the success of the collegeÕs development efforts. The interview during the selection process should reflect the presidential spouseÕs role on campus by allowing for a trustee-initiated conversation about the board expectations of the presidential spouse. The outcome of that conversation should be a two-sided dialog that captures the interests of the board while valuing the interests and abilities of the presidential spouse. The result of this conversation is a set of expectations that can be used to guide the spouse in the important work s/he takes on for the institution.