April 12, 2007 -- On the eve of University of Virginia Founder's Day, University President John T. Casteen III and Frank Batten Sr., one of the University's most loyal supporters, announced today that Batten is giving $100 million to create the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy.
Batten's is the largest single gift in the history of the University and brings the total raised in the current $3 billion Campaign for the University of Virginia to $1.290 billion. His unparalleled generosity will fund an ambitious new venture that has been on the drawing board for the past several years, Casteen said, and it is expected to enable the University to address critical policy issues in Virginia, the nation and around the world. The primary goal of the new school -- in both its undergraduate and graduate programs -- will be to supply the nation with visionary leaders who can drive the policy innovation process, energize organizations, build inclusive coalitions and translate good ideas into action.
“U.Va. began with one man’s vision of a great public university as the ‘bulwark of the human mind’ for our state and nation,” Casteen said. “It has from its earliest days sought to educate young people in the knowledge and skills -- what Jefferson called useful science -- that sustain individual liberty and our Republic’s freedom.
“This gift, intended to cultivate future generations of leaders dedicated to the common good, will both preserve our democratic traditions and inspire the next generation and those that come after to live up to the vision that gave this place its first breath."
The Batten School -- the first new school to be established at the University since the Darden Graduate School of Business Administration was created 53 years ago --will join a distinguished list of ten University schools, many of which are ranked among the best in the nation. The intent is for the school to be closely aligned with many of the University's schools, including law, business, medicine, engineering, and education, as well as with key programs such as politics, economics, and applied ethics.
Batten, a 1950 graduate of the College of Arts and Sciences, is the retired chairman and CEO of Landmark Communications Inc., a privately held media company whose broad holdings in electronic and print media include The Weather Channel, The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk and The Roanoke Times. He is known for his business acumen, as well as his keen interest in the areas of leadership, entrepreneurship and citizenship.
In 1999, he gave $60 million to the University's Darden School, where he served as a trustee of its foundation, to create the Batten Institute, which promotes entrepreneurial leadership in business. Batten, an entrepreneurial thinker who spent his own career dedicated to supporting educational initiatives as well as serving the public good, said he hopes his most recent gift will reach beyond business to all aspects of civic life.
“There's an urgent need to develop a new generation of entrepreneurial leaders who can bring about transformational change,” Batten said. “Talented public leaders are needed from a range of professional backgrounds, including law, medicine, business administration and the social sciences. It is critical to get younger people excited about the responsibilities and opportunities of public service in all its manifestations. The earlier in their careers that exceptional students begin to think of themselves as future public leaders who can promote a better society, the greater the likelihood they will become such leaders.”
In 2003, under the leadership of Provost Gene D. Block, the University set out to create a program that might support those ambitions to develop a generation of new leaders. Block appointed a multidisciplinary faculty committee -- with members drawn from the faculty, administration and the Miller Center of Public Affairs -- to develop a proposal for raising the University's profile in public service training. Lacking the funds to establish a major new school, the committee recommended the initial creation of a small, five-year master of public policy program intended to attract the University's most talented undergraduates. The idea generated considerable enthusiasm among students and faculty, Block said, and the Board of Visitors and the State Council for Higher Education of Virginia approved it last year. The program will be launched this fall with an inaugural class of 30 students.
Block, who also shepherded the idea of a professional, stand-alone school, said that recent discussions with the Faculty Senate's Academic Affairs Committee reinforced the already enthusiastic support for the creation of the Batten School. “The school will be nothing short of dazzling,” Block said, explaining that U.Va.'s programs will be distinguished from others around the country by virtue of its being grounded in critical thinking, scientific inquiry and public engagement coupled with a focus on leadership skills.
“This is truly a transformational moment in the University's history,” he added. “I don't think we can even begin to imagine the long-term impact of the step we are taking today.” The Batten School, he said, will have the ability to strengthen the University's capacity to fulfill its teaching, research and public service missions. It will further distinguish the University among its peers, raise the University's visibility and enhance its academic reputation.
Block will appoint a Batten School steering committee in the coming weeks to begin the hard work of preparing a comprehensive proposal that must move through several levels of required approvals, including from the Faculty Senate, the Board of Visitors, the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. The plan is to appoint a dean by the 2007-2008 academic year and for the school to open in the fall of 2009.
The Batten School will be a relatively small professional school, but comparable in size to other distinguished public policy programs at leading public research universities, with an estimated enrollment of 390 students – 225 undergraduates and 165 graduate students. It will have 18 full-time faculty members and will draw on a half dozen other faculty from schools and departments across the University.
The school's mission will be threefold:
* to provide state-of-the-art training programs in leadership and policy analysis;
* to foster research on critical public problems such as poverty, education and health care; and,
* to apply its research in service to the broader community through outreach and public action.
The women and men whose lives are shaped by the Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy will be expected to carry with them the principle that knowledge and freedom are inextricably tied together, Casteen said. “Like Jefferson, who sought to prepare citizens for the work they must do in a new republic, we will seek to prepare citizens for the work they must do in a new world.”