Where's Rothwell?

MTU board member has missed every meeting this year

The Daily Mining Gazette
Dec. 12, 2003; pp 1,8A

HOUGHTON — When the Michigan Tech University Board of Control meets this morning to address yet another budget crisis, one member won’t be at the table — again.

A. Douglas Rothwell, of downstate Ann Arbor, has yet to attend a meeting of the school’s governing board since his appointment by former Gov. John Engler in October 2002. A member of his staff at General Motors Corp. confirmed that he will not be at today’s meeting in Houghton. Rothwell declined to return phone calls for comment.

Board Vice Chairman Rodger Kershner said that, given Rothwell’s experience in state government, he could have been a valuable board member over the past year.

“We could use every idea and we would have liked to have his ideas because he obviously has a lot of experience in both government and business,” Kershner said.

At the time of his appointment in Oct. 2002, Rothwell was serving as president and CEO of the Michigan Economic Development Corp., which is responsible for promoting state business interests. After leaving the MEDC at the beginning of 2003, Rothwell took a job at GM as the executive director of worldwide real estate development.

Kershner said he can understand that Rothwell has time constraints.

“I’m not entirely surprised that he’s having trouble finding time for Tech after walking into such a big job at General Motors,” he said.

Rothwell’s term at Tech began on Jan. 1 and concludes on Dec. 31, 2010. He replaced outgoing member Martin Lagina. There are no provisions for removing a board member who doesn’t attend meetings.

Dale Tahtinen, MTU vice president of government relations and board secretary, said the university has been working with Rothwell so he can attend meetings.

“I believe he’s very much aware of the fact that it’s important for him to attend the meetings and he’s aware of the fact we’d like to have all board members participate fully,” Tahtinen said.

He said long absences from the board are rare.

“It’s unusual that an entire year would go by unless someone had a health problem,” Tahtinen said.

University Senate President Robert Keen, an associate biological sciences professor, said Rothwell's background could have helped MTU develop its student enterprise program, which allows students to use their engineering and business acumen in real-life projects.

"He had economic expertise we could have used," Keen said. "I've been disappointed that he hasn't been able to make a contribution along those lines."

Many board members -- most of whom live outside the Upper Peninsula -- don't have perfect attendance records. When some can't travel to Houghton for a meeting, they often participate via telephone. Rothwell hasn't done that.

Rothwell appears to have but a token presence as a university official. While other members have comprehensive biographical information on the board of control's Web site, Rothwell's information merely lists his name, hometown and term of office.

Because state law doesn't provide a mechanism for removing a board member, Kershner said there's little the university can do.

"There is no provision in the law that would allow us as a board to remedy the situation," he said.

The last resignation on the board occurred in 2002 when then-vice chairman James Bronce Henderson III resigned in the wake of his company's messy bankruptcy filing.

Tahtinen, who has been at Tech for 14 years, said Henderson's resignation was the first he's seen.

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