A former CEO of Wendy’s, the U.S. postmaster general and a famed humorist all walk into a room. While it sounds like the start of a bad bar joke, such a scene is actually commonplace at meetings of the Elon University Board of Trustees.

The board — a governing body at the university that aids in decision-making — contains parents, alumni and donors, but is also populated by former CEOs, authors and doctors. According to Patrick Noltemeyer, who serves as secretary to the board, this diversity in life experience is what makes the university’s board “special” and helps trustees make better decisions for the university. 

“We have trustees that represent basically every facet of our country, of our citizenry and everything. There are folks from every political persuasion on the board and many, many different walks of life and professions,” Noltemeyer said. “The variety of life perspectives that they bring to the table is really helpful because Elon is a diverse place.”

The board is composed of 35 individuals: there are 26 male trustees and nine female trustees. 30 of the trustees, or 86%, are white.

Noltemeyer said having different perspectives allows the trustees to look at all angles of a problem. But having so many different perspectives in one room can make conversations more difficult, as well. When the board votes on an initiative or plan, not every vote is unanimous, but Noltemeyer said the board members work hard to “come to a consensus.” 

“The way that I look at a particular strategic initiative or a certain priority is going to be different than the person across the table from me,” Noltemeyer said. “What happens at the board table are very frank and open discussions about the pros and cons of each approach, and the board really has long conversations about the strategic direction of the university and the best next step.” 

When the governance and nominating committee is looking for potential new members, they will analyze the diversity of the board and see where a new member could add, Noltemeyer said. 

Despite their different life experiences, Noltemeyer said what really unites board members is their commitment to the Elon mission. 

“They all believe in Elon students and the graduate’s ability to have a positive impact on the world,” Noltemeyer said. “That’s what unites them and makes them motivated to come to those meetings and have those hard conversations.”