Dr. Taylor serves Northwestern Board for 10 years, contributes to culture of strength

Liala Helal | August 04, 2015

Dr. David Taylor retired from the Board of Trustees in June after a decade of service.

Northwestern has a strong culture of strength and resiliency. And it’s grown stronger since Dr. David Taylor can remember. He’s served on the Board of Trustees for 10 years.

Dr. Taylor officially retired recently from the board June 22. When he joined in 2005, while Dean of the General College of the University of Minnesota, he remembers challenges facing Northwestern that took a thoughtful approach to grow and prosper from its roots as a chiropractic college to a future as a health sciences university. Using his fearless leadership, thoughtful questioning, skills in building trust and engaging people, and serving as an agent of change, he offered integral solutions to the growth of the institution. There were new realities emerging in public health, and he helped Northwestern “be part of that emerging perspective,” he said. “If we chose to ignore it, we would’ve been isolated and treated as such.”

And it has been an ongoing evolution, he said.

“That’s where the strength of Northwestern Health Sciences University has been over the last several years,” Dr. Taylor said. “Honoring the tradition, but recognizing that we have to be a part of the future as well.”

With a strong academic background, carrying experience in various leadership roles at higher education institutions across the country, Dr. Taylor recognized the changing world Northwestern would face.

“The world was changing around the university,” he said. “Higher education was changing, the field of public health was changing, attitudes of people about access and what institutions of higher education ought to be doing relative to health sciences was all changing, and we were kind of caught up in the firestorm.”

As chair of Northwestern’s academic affairs committee on the board, Dr. Taylor helped ease the transition of the college repositioning itself to be successful “in the new world,” he said.

“We reaffirmed who we were, our identity, but also affirmed the fact that the world around us was changing and we needed to be an integral part of that change, if not lead the change,” Dr. Taylor said. “And that was really a radical departure from the past. There was a science there – but the larger world of scientific inquiry needed to be embraced as well. And you didn’t need to embrace all; you could be a leader in those areas where other scientific approaches did have answers, what you could not do was isolate yourself on an island and claim to be righteous and let the world pass you by. And that’s where the board really had to grapple, because the future of the college laid in a thoughtful approach that respected the past and the foundations of the college, but at the same time reflected new realities emerging in public health.”

Dr. Taylor was there through many challenges and helped in several areas – accreditation, creating a dynamic curriculum, involving alumni, managing funding, creating an enlightened administrative leadership, and enhancing the governance process.

“This is a university with a university structure. This is not a college of chiropractic with appendages,” Dr. Taylor explained. “So you had to be attentive to all the academic elements of the college and create an environment where everyone feels that they have an equal opportunity to inform the process, as opposed to being dominated.”

Over the decade he’s served on the board, the successful repositioning of the university was one of the largest accomplishments.

“Something that stands out in my mind is repositioning Northwestern Health Sciences University in the field of public health,” Dr. Taylor said. “Changing the attitudes of people in the region about what we do, having that kind of name recognition for excellence and for innovation that is something that has occurred.”

Dr. Taylor served as chair of the board’s Academic Affairs committee for the last several years. After nine years on the board, which is the limit, he was given a one-year extension to help with planning for the future of the University.

Northwestern’s current Board Chair, Dr. David Peterson, worked very closely with Dr. Taylor and remarked, “His insights and depth of experience in higher education were instrumental during his service to the university and I’ll always treasure our relationship. Dr. Taylor also helped us seek a new President, Dr. Chris Cassirer, who came to us last June with the kind of vision and focus that will be critical to accomplish the important work ahead.” Dr. Peterson added, "When this soft-spoken person weighed-in on an issue, everyone on the Board listened because of his insight and depth of wisdom.”

Dr. Taylor has been retired for a couple years, and most recently worked as Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs at Dillard University in New Orleans. He has also held leadership positions at Morehouse College in Atlanta, the University of Minnesota, Minnesota State University System, and College of Charleston in Charleston, South Carolina. He has also held positions at Macalester College in St. Paul, State University of New York in New Paltz, New York, St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minn., the Minnesota Historical Society, and served many faculty positions, written two books and other publications, and served on more than a dozen college committees and boards.

He holds a Ph.D. in history, focused on History of African People from the University of Minnesota, a master of arts in history, focused on English Constitutional History and Twentieth-Century America from the University of Nebraska-Omaha and a bachelor of arts in German and Russian history with a minor in humanities from the University of Minnesota. He has also studied at the Institute for Educational Management at Harvard University after receiving his doctorate degree.

He is excited for the future of Northwestern and says he is ready to give way to more innovation, fresh ideas and new energy.

“I’m enthusiastic that we’ve gotten to the place that we have, given all the challenges that have presented themselves,” he said. “The fact is that we have embraced change. The fact is the culture is resilient. We have the capability of moving forward in an innovative way.”

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