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Beloit College Board of Trustees names new Chair

The convening of the Beloit College Board of Trustees from Thursday, Oct. 11 through Saturday, Oct. 13 resulted in some shuffling among the top of the board. Chair of the Board of Trustees Stopher Bartol’88 announced his resignation from that position, and within the following weeks, Dick Niemiec’65 was appointed as his replacement.

Bartol, who joined the Board of Trustees in 2012, became Chair of the Board in the Fall of 2017, succeeding former chair James Sanger.

“The college played a big role in shaping the person I am, and the career path I took in life,” Bartol told The Round Table of his decision to join the board and subsequently accept the position of chair. “It was, and continues to be, a way of saying ‘thank you’ to those who helped make my Beloit experience, and that which came after, possible.”

After over a year as chair, Bartol is stepping down to return to the memorialization website that he originally founded in 1998, Legacy.com.

“I accepted the position of board chair at [a] time when I was no longer running Legacy.com,” he said via email. “But as is often the case, life changed. Legacy needed me to step back in to run the company, and for the past 12 months I’ve served simultaneously as CEO of Legacy and board chair of Beloit College.”

“I felt strongly that the best thing for the college was to have a chair unencumbered by the level of professional responsibilities on my plate. And given the strength of Beloit’s board, which includes a number of trustees capable of serving as chair, it was an obvious decision for me to step aside and play a different role on the board.”

Legacy.com is the “leading online destination for remembering people’s lives,” according to Bartol. “Through partnerships with newspapers and funeral homes, we host obituaries for the vast majority of people who die in the U.S. each day, and we help others pay tribute through sharing remembrances, sympathy flowers and gifts to relevant charities.” The Chicago-based website employs 200 and serves 40 million visitors monthly.

“I often tell others that Beloit College prepares people for careers of the future that may not exist today,” Bartol said. “Certainly this was true for me. I graduated in 1988 before the Internet had become ‘a thing,’ and without a degree in computer science, I founded, and today run, a company whose domain is among the 100 most visited each month in the U.S. It is extremely rewarding work.”

Bartol, a native of Sun Prairie, Wis., graduated from Beloit with a degree in economics before earning his Master’s in finance and marketing from the Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago. His time as board chair allowed him to remain integrated with the Beloit College community even after graduation.

“While I’ve stayed connected to Beloit since I graduated, it was during my role as board chair that I met more alumni, faculty, staff, students and friends at the college than at anytime prior,” Bartol said. “I really love Beloiters, not just because they tend to be well-rounded and have an entrepreneurial mindset (always thinking about what might be possible), but because they are always looking for ways to make a difference, and are eager to help my fellow Beloiters in any way possible. Seeing this in action on a regular basis was a highlight of my time as chair.”

Although his time as chair was brief compared to the 12 years of his predecessor, Sanger, Bartol led the Board of Trustees through a critical time for Beloit College, dealing with the slew of hate crimes that have struck campus over the past several years. In the Spring of 2017, shortly before Bartol assumed the position of chair, the Board of Trustees penned an open letter in The Round Table addressing concerns regarding the hate crimes. Bartol’s tenure also saw the increase in the college’s deficit as well as the rise of Beloit Forward.

Bartol passes the role of chair to Niemiec, another trustee who has remained close to the college since his graduation in 1965. After completing his Bachelor’s in mathematics degree at Beloit, Niemiec earned his Master’s in statistics from the University of Missouri-Columbia. Now based in Minneapolis, he has held high-ranking positions such as senior vice president of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, as well as serving on boards for organizations such as the YMCA of St. Paul, the Harriet Tubman Center and the national American Red Cross.

Niemiec is arguably most well known within the Beloit College community for stepping in as interim president in 2008 after former president John E. Burris announced his departure. Niemiec held the position until 2009, when the college hired its current president, Scott Bierman.

“My relatively brief tenure as board chair connects two Beloit greats,” Bartol said in praise of Sanger and Niemiec. “I succeeded [Sanger], who served as chair for 12 years and was instrumental in building today’s version of the board. Also a veteran of the board, [Niemiec] has served as chair of the important Budget and Planning Committee, and even served as interim president of the college in 2008. He is the most qualified person I can imagine to serve in this role today, and Beloit is extraordinarily fortunate to have him as our new chair.”

Niemiec could not be reached for comment at press time.

The chair of the board is usually nominated and elected by other members of the board.

“Typically, a committee of trustees is selected by the board, and asked to conduct a process by which they nominate a candidate for approval by the full board,” Bartol said. “This process recently resulted in a unanimous approval of our new board chair by the full board.”

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