May 8, 2009 — Susan G. Harris, an attorney and a 21-year veteran of the University of Virginia administration, has been named secretary to the Board of Visitors and special assistant to U.Va. President John T. Casteen III. She began work May 1.
Secretary to the Board of Visitors is the oldest administrative position at the University, having been specified in the school's original 1819 charter. (There was no president for the first 85 years of the University's existence.) Founder Thomas Jefferson was the first secretary; he also held the title of rector, serving in both posts from 1819 to 1825. Harris becomes his 18th successor as secretary, and the first woman to hold the office.
"Susan Harris is an outstanding University administrator who has the trust of all members of the Board of Visitors," said W. Heywood Fralin, rector of the board. "She comes into this job with a broad knowledge of the daily workings of the University and a deep understanding of how the University's board operates. We are fortunate that Susan has agreed to serve in this capacity."
"I am honored to have been selected for this position," Harris said. "I have been given an extraordinary opportunity to follow a long line of distinguished University citizens, including my immediate predecessor, Sandy Gilliam."
Alexander "Sandy" Gilliam retired from the post at the end of April after having served since 1991. He continues to work in a part-time role as University history and protocol officer.
Harris, 49, a 1987 graduate of the U.Va. School of Law, began her University career in the general counsel's office. She later became assistant to Leonard W. Sandridge, U.Va.'s executive vice president and chief operating officer, where she worked closely with the specific units reporting to him, including the Department of Athletics, the Medical Center, the University Police, the Office of Emergency Management, the University of Virginia Foundation and the University of Virginia Investment Management Company.
Among her duties was writing resolutions for the Board of Visitors and helping prepare for board meetings.
Harris is a member of the National Association of College and University Attorneys, the Virginia State Bar and the American Bar Association.