Colby’s Board of Trustees has elected Jane Powers ’86 as chair of the board. Powers, chief of staff and executive vice president of strategic initiatives at Fenway Health, is an influential and prominent leader in the field of behavioral health for the LGBTQIA+ community. Currently serving as vice chair of the board, she assumes the new role in May of 2022.
“Jane has distinguished herself on the board through her strategic thinking, her remarkable ability to understand multiple perspectives and synthesize complex issues, and her wisdom and deep insight,” said President David A. Greene. “Colby is incredibly fortunate to have her stepping into this important role.”
Powers possesses a longstanding passion for expanding access to Colby’s distinctive education. She has an exceptional 30 years of service to the College in increasingly important roles. Currently in her third term on the board, she has chaired the board’s People and Programs Committee, served as vice chair of the Admissions and Financial Aid Committee, and been a member of the Board of Visitors.
As chair, she will draw from those experiences to guide the College as it continues to attract the most talented students from around the world and provide exceptional educational opportunities that prepare students to make meaningful contributions to the world.
“Jane has been a strong supporter of Colby for many years,” said Eric Rosengren ’79, current chair of the board. “She leads by example and has strong ties to all Colby stakeholders. Jane is the right leader for Colby as it continues to innovate and further its goal of being a premier liberal arts college.”
Powers makes history at Colby as the first woman to head the College’s governing body. Her election comes serendipitously as the College marks the 150th anniversary of women’s admittance to Colby. In 1871 Mary Low became the first woman to enroll at Colby. Often referred to as the grandmother of coeducation at Colby, she cofounded the Sigma Kappa Sorority, was the first woman invited to join the Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society, and was valedictorian of Colby Class of 1875.
“What a tremendous honor to be elected chair of the Board of Trustees,” said Powers. “Colby has made tremendous progress in making life-changing opportunities available for students. As chair, I will work to ensure that Colby stays true to its values while also positioning the College to educate students to effectively address 21st-century challenges.”
Powers brings to the board her perspective as a clinical social worker. She subscribes to a biopsychosocial model, which looks at individuals holistically with unique biological, sociological, and psychological histories. Her background allows her to employ sensitivity and insight when confronted with complex challenges. Members of the board appreciate the constructive approaches and solutions she offers as well as her ability to communicate with clarity and conviction.
“Jane embodies the values of Colby as an institution. Inclusivity, curiosity, empathy, and service to others are endemic to who she is,” added Sunil Thakor ’99, who serves as vice chair with Powers.
In 2013 Powers joined Fenway Health as director of behavioral health. At the Boston-based community health center, she led a team of more than 70 therapists, social workers, addictions specialists, and LGBT violence-prevention experts committed to providing quality care to everyone, regardless of their ability to pay. The center’s core mission is to support LGBTQIA+ individuals, people of color, and other underserved communities. Later, Powers became both acting and interim CEO before her current role.
Throughout her career, Powers has been an engaged and notable voice in the field of community health in general and for meeting behavioral health needs for the LGBTQIA+ community specifically. A frequent presenter at national conferences, she currently serves on the LGBT Task Force of the National Association of Community Health Centers. Additionally, she has been an advisory member to the National LGBTQIA+ Health and Education Center; a member of the National Association of Community Health Centers’ LGBTQ Health Task Force, Clinical Issues Committee, and HIV and Behavioral Health Integration Committee; and a member of the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers’ Clinical Issues Committee.
Previously, she was director of day programs at St. Ann’s Home, a therapeutic day school for emotionally troubled children and adolescents, for nearly 20 years.
As a Colby student, Powers was a Presidential Scholar, elected to Phi Beta Kappa, and president of the Women’s Group. She double majored in psychology and human development and went on to earn an M.S.W. in clinical social work from Simmons College.
Powers’s engagement with the College began when she was a student in the mid-1980s. In response to the board’s decision to abolish fraternities, she helped create reimagined systems of residential and social life on campus. Soon after she graduated, she became an admissions volunteer and later served on the Alumni Council. As a member of the Board of Visitors, she oversaw visiting committees for the Women’s Studies (now Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies), Latin American Studies, and the Education program, Student Services, and the Sociology Department. She first joined the board in 2005.
Powers not only gives back to Colby, but she also dedicates a significant portion of personal time in support of community health. An avid cyclist, she has participated in the Harbor to the Bay Ride since 2007, raising funds for Fenway Health and other AIDS/HIV organizations.
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