Baucom pointed to several examples of student resilience and determination that inspire him. The bookend experiences of the Class of 2021 left a particularly deep impression. Weeks before the students arrived in 2017, torch-bearing white supremacists marched across Grounds and engaged in violent clashes at UVA and in downtown Charlottesville. Four years later, those students would graduate after seeing their final months at UVA disrupted and nearly derailed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
But they were not deterred or denied.
“The way the students rallied around each other in 2017 and the maturity they showed this past year really stick with me,” he said.
The opportunity to walk the Lawn with them on the way to their Final Exercises ceremony at Scott Stadium was one of the most gratifying moments of his time at UVA.
“There’s a lot of joy and happiness in this university,” he said, “but our students combine that with the sense of really trying to understand what the history of this place means for the future and what else they’re going to build.”
Right Person at the Right Time
Ryan could say the same about Baucom, whose appointment will become official when approved by the Board of Visitors in March. He lauds Baucom’s deep and relevant experience, and his ability to appreciate the history and tradition of a place like UVA while still recognizing the need to continue to experiment and evolve.
“Ian is widely admired not only for his competent leadership and passion for research, teaching and learning, but also for his generous spirit and ability to listen,” Ryan said. “Given his track record of success at the College and his dedication to UVA’s academic mission, he’s exactly the right person to step in as provost, and I know he’ll be ready to hit the ground running.”
Magill, who served as provost since 2019, knows well the enormity of the job. The provost serves as the institution’s chief academic officer, broadly responsible for its teaching, scholarship and research, faculty recruitment and retention, and service to the commonwealth. For the past 2 ½ years (and counting), the provost also has played a leading role in guiding the University’s response to the pandemic.
“It’s a difficult and rewarding job. I also think it’s an ideal job if you believe deeply in the core missions of a public research university – advancing research, teaching and service, and therefore working to help students succeed and faculty thrive,” Magill said. “Ian Baucom clearly does, and I couldn’t be happier for him – and for UVA. He is perfectly suited and more than prepared for this opportunity.”
Baucom transitions to the Office of the Provost in March. He and Ryan announced last week that David Hill, professor of psychology in the College and a former department chair and associate dean, will serve as interim dean as a national search for a permanent dean of Arts & Sciences gets underway.
The Power of Education
Baucom credits his mother and father for showing him the power of education to improve lives. Their lesson and his belief in it have only strengthened through his career.
His parents, Kenneth and Henrietta Baucom, ran adult literacy programs for mine workers in South Africa, where Baucom spent his childhood during the country’s apartheid era.
“I saw the difference that basic education made in the lives of those miners, and then I saw the role that universities played in the struggle against apartheid,” he recalled.
Apartheid laws enforced racial segregation in South Africa from the 1940s through the system’s dissolution in 1991. Anti-apartheid activist and African National Congress leader Nelson Mandela, jailed for his political activities for almost 30 years, generated international attention and applied pressure to the discriminatory system. Freed in 1990, he and President F.W. de Klerk worked together to construct a new South African constitution as de Klerk began repealing the laws of apartheid.