Announcement from the University of Virginia Board of Visitors

September 13, 2012

The University of Virginia’s Board of Visitors has chosen Richmond attorney George Keith Martin to serve as Vice Rector of the Board.

Martin graduated from the University of Virginia in 1975 and from the Howard University School of Law in Washington, D.C., in 1978. Among his fellow U.Va. classmates and close legal associates was the late Chief Justice Leroy Rountree Hassell, who became the first African American Chief Justice of the Virginia Supreme Court.

 Governor Bob McDonnell appointed Mr. Martin to the Board of Visitors in July 2011. He currently co-chairs the Board of Visitors' new Governance and Engagement Committee, formed by Rector Helen Dragas this past summer. The Committee is part of an effort to be collaborative and innovative in proactively addressing critical issues such as sustainable funding, educational service delivery and academic quality.

 “My time at U.Va. as a student was special,” said Martin. “Indeed it changed my life, and therefore I am thankful to the Governor and the General Assembly for the opportunity to serve on the Board of Visitors. I am honored that my fellow Visitors have selected me to serve as Vice-Rector. I am indeed humbled by their support. The challenges facing our beloved University are not the same as before, making collaborative and strategic work even more vital to sustaining our high academic quality.”

As the managing partner of the Richmond office of McGuireWoods LLP (the firm’s largest office), Mr. Martin is recognized for his legal experience, public service and community activity. He has been named one of Virginia's "Legal Elite" numerous times by Virginia Business magazine. He served for a decade on the Virginia Board of Bar Examiners, the five-member body responsible for licensing lawyers in Virginia. Prior to joining McGuireWoods in 1990, Mr. Martin was a partner at Wilder, Gregory & Martin (now Harrell & Chambliss) along with former Governor L. Douglas Wilder and Judge Roger L. Gregory of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit. 

 Mr. Martin previously served on the James Madison University Board of Visitors and he was a member of Governor Jim Gilmore’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Higher Education which identified opportunities to secure affordable, quality undergraduate education in Virginia. He currently serves on the Regent University School of Law board. 

Martin’s selection as the University’s first African-American Vice Rector is historically significant, considering that as late as 1951, African-American students could not attend U.Va. based on Virginia law that prohibited "the admission of white and colored persons in the same schools." Only a few generations have passed since Walter Ridley became the first African-American graduate of the University, receiving a doctorate in education in 1953.  When Martin enrolled at the University, there were only 250 African American students in the entire school, and 98 of those were in his class. In the 2011-2012 class, 7.2% of the University’s 14,591 undergraduate were African American. Further, U.Va. has one of the highest graduation rates among African American students of any public university.

“In his new role as Vice Rector, George represents far more than a historic step forward in this Board’s commitment to reflecting the great diversity of our community,” said Rector Dragas. “His irrefutable integrity, character, and considerate manner will contribute constructively to our renewed efforts to make real progress and reshape the future outcomes for this great University.”

As part of this week’s meeting, the Board also announced the selection of new members to its Executive Committee: Timothy Robertson, John Nau, Victoria Harker, and Marvin Gilliam will serve on the committee, along with Mr. Martin serving as an ex-officio. 

Working closely with the Rectors and University President, the members of the Executive Committee have the authority to take action in place of the full Board in between formal meetings. 

The Board of Visitors has 17 voting members, two non-voting senior advisers and a student member.