When Robert Cushing ’77 passed the chairmanship of Siena’s Board of Trustees to Howard Foote ’74, the transition was seamless. The distinguished alums share a life-long commitment to the Siena community and its academic well-being.
Foote was just a young accountant fresh out of college when he began to donate what funds he could to his alma mater. It was an act of generosity and gratitude that would be multiplied many times over as an associate trustee, trustee and now as chairman of the board.
“Siena College prepared me for a professional career and helped me to develop character within the framework of a great Franciscan Catholic environment. I wanted to show my appreciation for that,” said Foote, a managing partner in charge of operations for UHY LLP’s Capital Region office, the nation’s 20th largest accounting firm as reported by Accounting Today.
Foote, who most recently served for four years as the board’s treasurer and last year as the board’s vice chair, assumed his new role in June. He credits his success to Siena and to his family, who include Susan, his wife of 33 years; his son Kevin, a Boston College graduate who is now a portfolio trader in the Institutional Equity Division at Morgan Stanley; and his daughter Jenna ’14.
Foote’s immediate predecessor was board chair for six years. Cushing, an Albany native, is CFO of Trustco Bank. He started his career as an accountant for two national accounting firms and said Siena changed his life. Cushing decided to return the favor with 18 years of dedicated service as a college trustee.
“I grew up in inner-city Albany. When I graduated from high school, I applied to Siena. The College accepted me, but I had no money to go,” said Cushing. “I went to the Admissions Office and, eventually, to the President’s Office and said, ‘If you will be kind enough to take a risk on me, someday, if given the opportunity, I will pay you back.’” Cushing made his first payment on the “loan” when, one year after graduating from Siena, he made his initial contribution to the College’s Annual Fund.
At Siena, Cushing met his future wife, Trudy HGH ’77. The couple were married on campus and their two boys were baptized on College grounds.
Both Cushing and Foote have established Siena scholarships awarded annually to students who demonstrate financial need.
As for his thoughts on the incoming chairman, Cushing said he is confident that Foote will continue to propel Siena forward through this decade and beyond.
“Howard is the ideal person to be the chairman of the board at this time. He’s a great communicator and has a clear vision of what needs to be accomplished,” Cushing said.
Under Cushing’s leadership, Siena launched its latest strategic plan in 2011. Titled Living Our Traditions, the plan provides a blueprint to enhance student engagement and strengthen the College’s endowment and other financial resources. It also places greater emphasis on research opportunities.
“Bob’s tenure has spanned one of the most volatile economic times Siena has seen since its founding in 1937. In spite of that, he has been a wonderful and timely leader for us,” Foote said. “He has a unique, proactive ability not only to listen and collaborate, but also to develop and execute strategies to make the Siena community more successful.”
In his new role as chairman, Foote said he will take the lead in continuing to implement the strategic plan, particularly as it relates to strengthening the endowment and broadening the base from which the College draws its students in today’s competitive environment of higher education.
Foote sees the College reaching out to more nontraditional students who are looking to enhance their understanding of today’s global society.
“My role as chairman will be to help the board continue to address and enhance the areas of globalization, innovation, endowment preservation, academic excellence and shared governance between the board and the academy,” Foote said.
Foote and Cushing emphasized that shared governance has been a key to Siena’s strength as an academic institution.
“I’ve always been a big believer that it’s the community — students, faculty, staff, administrators, the local residents and others working together — that makes Siena as successful as it is and will continue to be,” Cushing said.