Survival Guide: How Kurt Landgraf prepares for board meetings.
By Maureen Milford

As president of Washington College in Chestertown, Maryland, Kurt Landgraf has a packed calendar. Yet, Landgraf happily makes time to serve on the boards of two major U.S. corporations.

 “I think it’s fascinating, especially if they’re corporations you really like,” he says about Corning Inc., a Fortune 500 specialty glass, ceramics and advanced optics based in Corning, NY, and Louisiana-Pacific Corp., a building materials company headquartered in Nashville, TN. He chairs the audit committees on both boards and also is a member of their compensation committees.

Board meetings are something he actually looks forward to, says Landgraf, who was CEO of Educational Testing Service Inc. before joining Washington College. “It’s something different than I do every day,” he says. “I’m 72. I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t enjoy it.”

Recently, Landgraf was preparing for a Corning board meeting. The materials arrived electronically via board management software about a week in advance to make sure they’re the most up-to-date. Landgraf has decades-long experience on boards, having once served as CFO of the DuPont Co. and CEO of DuPont Merck Co.

Landgraf estimated it took him about 4 hours to read the package on his iPad. Technology now allows him to make notes on the screen and highlight important information. “You want to make sure you read everything carefully,” he says. “It takes a lot of time.”

Because of his duties at the college, Landgraf gets picked up by the corporate jet in Maryland for flights to the meetings. “I almost have to insist upon that because of my day job,” he says.

For Corning meetings in New York City, however, he takes the train.

Unlike 40 years ago, when some board meetings in corporate America could last two to four hours, the meetings Landgraf’s attends can last 14 hours.

“When I come back from board meetings I’m exhausted. They start you 7 a.m. and you go all day. Then there’s a dinner meeting,” he says.

Although he’s aware that there are greater expectations placed on directors than at any time, Landgraf says he’s never been on a board where directors did not take their duties extremely seriously.

What’s more, in his experience, boards have always been conscious of all the stakeholders. As a person who spent his early childhood in an orphanage in Newark, New Jersey, Landgraf says he’s found board members to be very socially responsible.

“It’s not just share price,” he says. “I’ve never been on a board that doesn’t take into account the impact of its actions on the broader community.”

Landgraf is a person who likes to stay busy so he doesn’t do much to loosen up before meetings. A former baseball pitcher who played in the minor leagues after high school and got an athletic scholarship to college, Landgraf does ride a bike. “I’m not much of an unwinder,” he admits.

His high-energy might explain why he found enough time to write an op-ed piece for the Baltimore Sun about the college admissions scandal titled “Shocked by the college admissions scandal? Here’s how to stop it.” (https://www.baltimoresun.com/news/opinion/oped/bs-ed-op-0314-admissions-...)

It could be said it illustrates the mindset he brings to his directorships.

“These indictments aren’t a scandal. Rather, they are a symptom of the real issue that our country needs to address, and that is the economic inequities that are built into our system of education and our nation as a whole,” Landgraf wrote. 

 

 


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