Link joins Highmark board

A July 28 Highmark Health press release announced Allegheny College President Hilary Link’s appointment to the Highmark Incorporated Board of Directors.
“We’re looking forward to Hilary’s contributions to the Highmark Inc. board of directors,” President and CEO of Highmark Health and chairman of the board for Highmark Inc. David Holmberg is quoted in the release. “Her extensive experience in the education field is pivotal as we prepare for the future of our organization and improving the health care experience for all.”
Link explained that the job of a college or university president stretches beyond their institution and requires them to be an ambassador for their institution. This appointment provides publicity for Allegheny College in a primary city-center of Alumni and future students — Pittsburgh.
“Highmark is one of the largest and most prominent businesses nationally, but specifically in Pittsburgh, and the board is really made up of important, well-connected people in Pittsburgh,” Link said. “So this is an amazing opportunity for — not to use the cliche but for Allegheny to have a seat at that table.”
Re-engaging with the Pittsburgh base of Alumni was a priority, and Link’s appointment made it much easier, she explained. According to Link, Highmark employs many Allegheny graduates and friends of Allegheny as well, and having the President of the college reside on their board is a huge and immediate boost to Allegheny’s reputation in and out of the greater Pittsburgh area.
Director of Editorial Services Josh Tysiachney clarified in an email to The Campus that Link’s duties as the institution’s president would be unaffected by her appointment.
“Like many college and university presidents, President Link has been invited to serve on the board of directors
of other prominent organizations,” Tysiachney wrote. “These director positions typically involve a few meetings per year and other commitments that do not have a significant impact on her responsibilities as Allegheny president.”
A position on Highmark’s Board of Directors is not something that Link sought out, but was rather sought for, she explained. Link still went through a months-long interview process before her appointment.
Both Tysiachney and Highmark’s release echoed the sentiment that Link’s background in education was heavily sought after as Highmark selected its new board members. Highmark had a number of criteria when searching for their new board member, specifically someone from Northwestern PA and a woman to offset the male-dominated field, according to Link. Her background in education provided her an external lens with which to reexamine the Highmark systems.
“Highmark’s an interesting company (because) they’re really a hybrid between (a) hospital system and insurance and lots of other other businesses,” Link said. “The more that I’ve spoken with them, the more we’ve actually realized there are really interesting parallels between higher education and health care in this particular moment especially. Even though Allegheny College is a much smaller entity than Highmark, we are, for a small institution, a really complex business.”
Link explained that the structure of both institutions is very similar, with the primary product or service being fully controlled by a separate party — faculty or doctors.
“Then you’ve got the CEO trying to balance (everything),” Link said. “You’ve got students who are maybe like the patients. You’ve got families involved. You’ve got local communities that you’re serving. You’ve got governmental agencies.”
While Link is excited for everything she can bring to Highmark, she’s equally excited for the opportunities these new connections will present to Allegheny students. With Allegheny’s large base of pre-med students, Link hopes that many internship and career opportunities, and also more connections with master’s programs in Pittsburgh will become much more accessible through Highmark.
“The other day, as I was walking across campus, one of our students actually came up to me and said, ‘I read about your appointment on the Highmark board. I’m really interested in Highmark as a company. Is that ever something you think might be possible for an internship?’ and I was so excited because that is also a piece of this.”
As Link begins her term, she looks forward to all these paths for the college, its students, and also her own growth.
“It’ll be a huge learning experience to learn how another really complicated business model functions as we are constantly trying to figure out … how to make Allegheny’s model not just viable, but thriving into the future,” Link said.