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Board of Trustees, University of Vermont

 Record Group
Identifier: RG-001

Scope and Contents

The Board of Trustees records comprise the bylaws of the University of Vermont and State Agricultural College, meeting minutes, correspondence, reports, financial records, and memos of the UVM Board of Trustees from its inception in 1791 to the present day. In addition to the bound series of meeting minutes of the full Board, there are records of the various committees and subcommittees of the Board, as well as planning and study materials created for the Board meetings.

The early records consist almost entirely of meeting minutes, subscription records and correspondence. As the nineteenth century came to a close, the volume and variety of records began to increase. In the twentieth century and to date, especially in the latter half of the century, the records have increased exponentially.

The collection is organized in four series. The committees series contains records used by individual committees of the Board, including committee meeting minutes, reports, and correspondence. The member files series is organized according to individuals who acted as trustees. The Student Trustee project series is comprised of research relating to the push to establish students as full members of the Board. These materials originated primarily with the Student Government Association. The meeting records series is the largest and contains the widest array of materials. The meeting materials and minutes subseries includes minutes, agendas, and memos from Board meetings, as well as "mailings," or materials that trustees receive ahead of meetings to prepare. The meeting records series also contains a subseries of photographs of the full Board. The correspondence, financial papers, and reports subseries functions as a catch-all for materials used by the trustees. This includes correspondence between trustees, subscription books and bills, and reports presented by and to trustees.


  • 1778 - 2018



Collection is open for research.

Publication Rights

All requests to publish or quote from archives must be submitted in writing to the University Archivist.

Biographical / Historical

An act of Vermont's General Assembly on November 3, 1791, gave birth to the University of Vermont in the first year of Vermont's statehood. The Vermont Constitution of 1777 had included a statement about a desire to establish a state university. The act established the Corporation of the university; the legislature then appointed the first ten trustees, and designated the Vermont governor and the Speaker of the House members ex officio. These initial ten trustees included Caleb Blood, Bethuel Chittenden, Asa Burton, George Bowne, Charles Platt, Ira Allen, Jonathan Arnold, Enoch Woodbridge, Samuel Hitchcock and Jonathan Hunt. The first classes at UVM were not taught until 1801, however, in part because the trustees, who came from all over the state, had difficulty in gathering a quorum in order to enact university business. The failure of Ira Allen to follow through on his 4,000 pound pledge to the college was but one of many financial problems that plagued its early history.

In 1828, not wanting to see a university that was governed by the state legislature, the Governor and Council of Vermont voted to abolish legislative selection of trustees. From then on, the corporation would be self-perpetuating; that is, chosen by the members of the board itself. The board continued in this format until the union in 1865 of the university with the College of Agriculture, the land grant college, following the Morrill Act of 1862 that set aside 150,000 acres of land in each state to support colleges of agriculture. The act of the Vermont legislature that brought this union into being also provided that half of the board of eighteen trustees would be elected by the original trustees and half by the legislature. The Vermont governor would act as an ex-officio member, as would the UVM president, later.

The office of Chair of the Board of Trustees evolved over time. In 1791, Vermont Governor Chittenden was “President pro tem” at the first meeting of the Corporation, and in 1798 one sees Governor Tichenor presiding. Once the university commenced classes in 1800, the president of the university served also as Chair of the Board of Trustees, and remained so until well into the twentieth century. In 1958 the Chair was chosen from among the trustees, usually for three years; and the president became an ex-officio member of the board.

In 1955, a crisis of organization arose. The balance of public and private funding that had characterized UVM from the days of the mid-1860s was challenged by a proposal, backed by the then president Carl Borgmann, that the university take steps to becoming more clearly a state university. The argument for such a change was that it would allow more Vermont students to afford a college education. The proposed legislative bill would create more state-appointed trustees, to give legislative trustees a majority on the board, and in return, provide a higher level of support from the state--making the university an instrumentality of the state. The bill finally passed in the Legislature, but the question of how much support it would add to the UVM budget was, and remains, an issue. The legislature voted in 1955 to appropriate money that would provide for in-state tuition to be $345 per year, a figure that was a compromise between the $425 requested by the trustees and the $225 that the legislature first proposed. In the years since then, the percent of the university budget supplied by the Legislature has steadily declined.

In 2008 the board undertook major restructuring and subsequently created the Budget, Finance and Investment Committee (BFI) and the Educational Policy and Institutional Resources Committee (EPI). Informally called “mega committees,” they are meant to prevent the long term over-proliferation of committees. The culling of superfluous committees and their eventual re-accumulation seems to be a historically typical cycle of the BOT. During the 2008 restructuring, many committees were condensed into the BFI and EPI. The premise of this configuration is that most—ideally all—information, decisions and plans should pass through these two committees before reaching the full committee (this specific function of the ‘mega committees’ is not enumerated or mentioned in the Trustee website or handbook). Examples of committees that were absorbed by EPI include the Finance and Technology Committee and the Academic and Student Programs Committee. Committees that have been retained are the Audit Committee, the Executive Committee, the Board Governance Committee, the VT Agricultural Board, and the UVM Board (the self-perpetuating trustee selection board). The Executive Committee possesses all of the legal and decision making powers of the board as a whole and is endowed with this power in order to deal with emergency situations that require quick responses. The Executive Committee also seems to have specific purview over the President, as it is responsible for ordering all official Presidential evaluations. There are also a number of “work groups” and “advisory groups,” which differ from the more formal ad hoc and sub-committees. The former are usually created for transient university needs and the latter for more frequent and long-standing work. “Work groups” and “advisory groups” are consultative in nature and are not required to conform to the open meeting laws of the state of Vermont. Committee of the Whole/Full Board agendas are created by the Chair of the Board in conjunction with the President. The agendas for the other committees are created by their chairs in conjunction with the Chair of the Board.

Differing from other universities, the UVM trustee’s office is a sub-set of the presidential office. Thus, the BOT operates as an administrative appendage, demonstrated by the fact that the pay structures or printing needs of the BOT are all routed through the presidential office. The bulk of correspondence in the collection post-1970s is between trustees and the BOT administrative staff.


57.16 Linear Feet (53 cartons, 6 boxes, 1 oversize box, 1 box album, 18 bound volumes, microfilm)

Language of Materials



The Board of Trustees, University of Vermont records contain meeting materials, minutes, correspondence, reports, and member files used by and for the UVM Board of Trustees and its members from the founding of the university in 1791 to the present.

Physical Location

Library Research Annex; contact for access.

Guide to the University of Vermont Board of Trustees Records
2018 June
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

Part of the University of Vermont Archives Repository

Silver Special Collections Library
48 University Place, Room B201
Burlington Vermont 05405 U.S.A. US
802-656-4038 (Fax)