June 2024 Board Meeting

The Board of Trustees met on the School campus June 6–8, 2024. Three Trustees prepared readings to start each morning of our meeting. Before diving into the business of the day, we also shared inspiration with one another from our daily prayers in support of Principia.

The readings included this comforting message to Abraham from Genesis: “God is with you in everything you do” (21:22, NIV). We also drew inspiration from this citation from Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: “Science reveals the possibility of achieving all good, and sets mortals at work to discover what God has already done” (p. 260).

On Thursday, administrators and staff representing all areas of Principia presented updates. We received presentations on enrollment trends at the School and College, financial updates, and details about the College curriculum reimagination process, among other important information. Trustees appreciated the chance to ask questions based on the written reports and recent developments. We enjoyed celebrating the successes of the past academic year as well as looking ahead to learn about opportunities and plans for the 2024–2025 year.

Board Process and Structure
Since this meeting took place after Commencement at the College and Graduation at the School, the Trustees took advantage of the time normally spent with faculty, academic staff, and students to consider potential ways to improve how the Board is organized and how it operates. This work was freshening with many novel ideas. The Board Executive Committee will lead the effort in implementing the suggestions.

We missed getting time with students, faculty, and academic staff during this summer meeting. One of the takeaways from our brainstorming sessions about our future meetings, for example, was a clear desire to increase opportunities to visit classes, spend time with students, and engage with faculty and staff. We look forward to more of those interactions in the coming academic year.

Loans for College International Students
The Board approved a new international student loan program for students at the College. Students who are not citizens of the United States are now eligible to receive loans up to $2,500 per semester, for a maximum of eight semesters. The terms of this $5,000 annual loan offering are the same as those currently offered to domestic students. 

Financial Modeling Demonstration
Chief Financial Officer and Chief Operating Officer Tom Nickell shared a demonstration from a new financial modeling tool that will be used for strategic planning. This will allow the planning teams at the School and College to have a greater understanding of how strategic decisions could impact Principia’s long-term sustainability as we move forward.

Principia-wide Values Alignment Framework 
Former Trustee and strategic marketing consultant Bob Macdonald presented an update on the working draft of the Principia-wide Values Alignment Framework. The Board appreciated seeing the early results of work from the dual-campus working group formed this spring and facilitated by Bob. As envisioned by Chief Executive Barbara Blackwell, the outcome of this work will provide helpful guidance for discussions with prospective faculty and staff, students, and School families interested in joining the Principia community. We look forward to hearing more in August when Bob will facilitate Town Halls for faculty and staff input on the working draft.

Revisions to Principia Policies
The Ad Hoc Policy Review Committee, which includes administrators and Trustees, presented updated wording for Policies 7, 11, 13, 18, and 19. The Board approved new versions of these five Policies at this meeting. (View previous and new versions of these Policies.)

While the Policies are in the process of being revised, the latest versions of all 23 Policies can be found on the website. Please refer to this webpage when quoting Principia’s Policies. Updated Policies will be printed when revisions are complete, expected this coming academic year. Thank you for your patience with this prayerful, thoughtful process to update Principia’s foundational guidelines.

New Trustees Elected
Five new, very impressive Trustees were elected to attend their first Board meeting in the fall: Elisabeth (Skowronnek) Brinton (C’89), Gavin Campbell (US’78), Michael Distel (C’73), Lisle Staley Stigler (C’82), and Mayal Tshiabuila (C’92).

Elisabeth Brinton, who was the College’s Commencement speaker this May, is a highly experienced corporate executive, investor, entrepreneur, and board member who has successfully helped build 24 growth businesses. Her career has centered on developing and scaling sustainability-focused technology and business models across the globe. While serving as Corporate Vice President of Sustainability for Microsoft and Executive Vice President of New Energies for Shell, she operated in more than 75 countries and lived full-time on four continents (America, Europe, Africa, and Australia). Currently, she serves on the board of Oslo-based HubOcean and as a senior advisor for Longreach Capital based in London. Elisabeth is married to Bob Utley and owns Serenity Spring Farm where she produces and competes top sport show jumping horses in Ocala, Florida. 

Gavin Campbell is founder and managing principal at Steelbridge Capital, a real estate private equity firm headquartered in Evanston, Illinois. He previously served as President and CEO of the Florida Office Property Company and Managing Director of Acquisitions at LaSalle Investment Management following work for the federal and state governments as well as the Civic Committee, a Chicago-based economic development nonprofit. He was chairman of the Landmarks Preservation Council of Illinois, where he co-led efforts to save the internationally acclaimed Mies Van Der Rohe-designed Farnsworth House and open it as a museum. Gavin received a BA from Yale College, holds an MBA in finance from the University of Chicago, and attended Principia from kindergarten through 12th grade. Gavin lives in Chicago with his wife Diana and has three children: Tara, Lily, and Colin.

Michael Distel is Board President for KIN, Inc., a subsidiary of Kohl’s, where previously worked for seven years. As Senior Vice President of Real Estate at Kohl’s, he was department head of Kohl’s Real Estate and oversaw all real estate activities and personnel during a time of explosive growth. During his tenure, Kohl’s grew from 170 stores in just a few states to 1,140 stores in 49 states. Mike located sites, negotiated real estate deals, and completed documentation for stores across the United States; he also negotiated Kohl’s takeover of 40 Mervyn stores in bankruptcy court in New York. He previously worked for Best Products, Montgomery Ward, and F.W. Woolworth Company as well as serving as a trial attorney. He received a JD from John Marshall Law School in Chicago. Mike and his wife Linda (Pyle) Distel (C’73) live in Kingston Springs, Tennessee, and have two children, Amy and Kimberly (C’10).

Dr. Lisle Staley Stigler’s 35-year career has allowed her to work in every aspect of the education ecosystem. She has been a teacher, researcher, assessment specialist, school district administrator, and business executive, followed by 10 years as Head of School at Berkeley Hall School. She is currently a consultant for the Graduate School of Education and Information Sciences at UCLA. As a classroom teacher in California public schools, Lisle taught grades 1–6. She served as Director, Research and Evaluation for the Santa Barbara Public Schools as well as Researcher and Assistant Director at the UCLA Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing. Lisle led the Teacher Learning team at LessonLab, a startup company engaged in international research on mathematics and science teaching and learning. Following LessonLab’s acquisition, she worked as SVP of Design at Pearson Education. Lisle holds a master’s and PhD in education from UCLA and lives in Studio City, California, with her husband Jim Stigler. Her daughter Owen Bissell graduated from the College in 2013.

Mayal Tshiabuila has been a Journal-listed Christian Science practitioner since 2018 and a member of the Christian Science Board of Lectureship since 2023. He had a successful career with the United Nations development program and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), including a stint in Cambodia with a United Nations peacekeeping mission from 1992–1993. He served as the Human Rights Officer for OHCHR in Kinshasa, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), from 2003–2017. Mayal was trained to become a teacher, earning his undergraduate and graduate degrees in Kinshasa. He attended Principia College for a one-year enrichment program in 1991–1992. Mayal is the founder and coordinator of Ecoles du Coeur, a nonprofit taking care of vulnerable children and families by providing remedial education and vocational training. He has also opened an orphanage in Kinshasa. Mayal and his wife Pelagie Kanyemb live in Kinshasa.

Board Executive Committee Elections
The Trusteeship Committee nominated and the Board elected new Board Executive Committee members to one-year terms: 

Chair: Dr. Scott Schneberger
Vice-Chair: Steve DeWindt
Treasurer: David Walters
Secretary: Trish Sarkisian 
Member-at-large: Inez Maubane Jones  

On Friday night, after 18 hours of volunteer Board work, Trustees attended a Cardinals baseball game with members of the administrative Executive Team and their spouses for social camaraderie and ballpark food. It was a beautiful evening, and the Cards brought in an 8-5 win! 

We are deeply grateful for the abundant progress throughout this academic and fiscal year at Principia. Thanks to each of you for your dedicated, selfless work. As this past year’s inspirational theme so aptly put it: “You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14, NKJV). Have a wonderful summer letting your light shine wherever you are!