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10/11/95

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New Faculty Club board elected

STANFORD -- Members of the Stanford Faculty Club elected six new board members and filled three of the four officer positions during their annual meeting on Oct. 5.

The position of club president remains vacant at least until the end of October. The 1994-95 president, Dr. Ronald Ariagno, professor of pediatrics, has agreed to stay on as interim president until a successor is named by the new board.

The annual meeting normally is held in May. This year, however, that meeting was declared not official because the membership was not notified in advance by the required 10 days. As a result, the official meeting was postponed until the beginning of the academic year.

The 100 or so members who attended the recent meeting were told that the Faculty Club is continuing to work on solving its financial problems and that the club is beginning to fully recover from a period of instability in management.

Elected to the board for 1995-96 were John Bravman, Gordon Brown, Mary Edmonds, Robert Huff, William Kays and Channing Robertson.

The new vice president is Bart Thompson; the secretary is Chet Berry; and John Raisian serves as treasurer.

The members did not elect Richard Brody, who had been selected for president by the club's nominating committee. A number of speakers objected to the notion of voting for a slate of candidates, rather than voting separately on each position. But as Raisian pointed out, the four nominees felt comfortable working as a team. He also noted that leadership solidarity is necessary as the club continues to find ways to resolve its financial difficulties.

It eventually was agreed that, Ariagno's offer to stay on as interim president would be accepted and that the new board would elect a president at its first meeting, to be held in late October. Also at that meeting, the board will set its agenda for what promises to be a pivotal year in the club's history and will rewrite the bylaws of the club charter.

Club now on sounder ground

The board and officers this year will continue to report to the provost's office regarding progress on a new business plan to keep the club profitable. The annual subsidy from the university has been reduced; however, with operating improvements already in place this fiscal year, the club has managed to reduce its debt to the university to $500,000.

"Since March of this year," Ariagno said, "the club has been showing improvement and is beginning to make a profit." With the month- to-month figures improving, he said, the club now needs to seriously address the issue of its debt.

"We have a friend as a debtor," Ariagno said, "but they have made it clear that they want us to take our debt seriously."

A review of club finances and operations was completed over the summer by Coopers and Lybrand, an accounting and management consulting firm, and former university controller Frank Riddle also has been helping the club sort out its books. Provost Condoleezza Rice anticipates a follow-up report in about six months.

Over the past year, the club has reduced expenses by omitting revenue-losing services such as evening dinners and Sunday buffets, and by eliminating a number of staff positions. Additional steps that could be taken, Ariagno said, include a drive to increase membership and transferring ownership of the club building - and consequently the related capital expenses - to the university.

New manager making progress

Ariagno also noted that the instability in club management had ended and that the new manager, Hessen Ghazal, has succeeded in improving the quality of food and service.

"We're well on the path to correcting our most serious problems," Ariagno said.

Former club president Robert Simoni earlier said that Ghazal's contributions had been significant. When she was appointed manager in 1994, he said, the club was in severe trouble.

"But we've definitely turned the corner," Simoni said, "and Hessen's management has been a large part of that."

Following longtime manager Mario Scherrer's 1993 retirement, Simoni said, "we discovered a number of problems that nobody realized existed. The place had become tired; it was a good time for improvement."

At about the same time, the university informed the club that its subsidy was to be greatly reduced and eventually eliminated. When the board decided not to retain Scherrer's replacement after a six-month trial, Simoni said, "it extended this awkward period of transition."

When Ghazal was hired last year, Simoni said, "she was given the impossible task of making the club better and putting it back on sound financial ground. Her first year has been just chaotic."

While Ghazal has concentrated her efforts on improving the club's quality, the board, the consultants and Riddle have been working on the bottom line.

"Now, the balance sheet reflects how the service has improved enormously," Simoni said. Problems with the billing system, he added, "have largely been fixed."

Coopers and Lybrand, he said, "were quite positive about the direction the club has been taking over the past year."

One rumor that has been circulating on campus is untrue, Simoni added.

"The club is not going to close."

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