Turn back the clock to 1986. One of the authors had an audience with a then education editor of the New York Times as part of a larger effort to kindle media interest in a study this researcher had just launched on college boards of trustees. Less than five minutes into the presentation, the editor interrupted to proclaim,“Governance is a yawner.What else are you working on?”
Today, governance has become a front-page story propelled by a steady flow of articles on acquiescent and negligent corporate boards, and unbridled (and often unethical) CEOs.A composite picture emerges that depicts boards of directors as insular, incestuous, and derelict. Nonprofit boards are under attack as well. Just within the last year, for instance, there have bee n notorious accounts about self-serving boards of family foundations,a university board that bungled a presidential search at great embarrassment and great cost ($1.8 million to settle with the president-elect), and a prominent independent school board that paid its headmaster a salary most outsiders regarded as indefensibly excessive.