Ryan recited a long list of Jeffries’ contributions to the University, and recalled how he convinced the former dean to extend this service.
“When I accepted the job as president, John told me he would do anything he could to help me, which was an offer I immediately cashed in by convincing him to serve for three years as senior vice president for advancement,” Ryan said. “And because I can’t imagine doing my job without him, after he wrapped up his advancement duties, I asked him to stay on as counselor, a title that I think describes John perfectly. He has since served on the Emmet-Ivy Task Force and the Naming and Memorials Committee, among other roles, and has been a close adviser to me and someone whose judgment I’ve been able to rely on in good times and in challenging ones.”
In lauding his predecessor, Ryan said that Sullivan’s leadership was forward-looking even from the very beginning, when she raised concerns about the invasive emerald ash borer, which had devastated ash trees in her native Midwest and was headed toward Virginia. Her warnings proved to be an apt metaphor for her presidency, he said.
“I think it well illustrates three aspects of Terry’s leadership at UVA,” Ryan said. “First, it’s a perfect example of her commitment to deepening knowledge and understanding through scholarship and research that can be applied to pressing real-world problems. Second, it reflects her care and concern for the community here, and her investment in University life, from the landscape and built environment to its inhabitants. And finally, Terry’s forward-looking approach has benefited all of us, including me in my current role as president, but also, and more importantly, future generations of students, faculty and staff at UVA.”
Ryan cited many of Sullivan’s accomplishments during her tenure, including increased research funding, the renovation of the iconic Rotunda, expanding faculty recruitment and increasing pay, improving affordability for students, and planning for the University’s future.
“One of Terry’s greatest legacies may be her efforts to honestly and transparently examine UVA’s past with an eye toward a more just and inclusive future,” Ryan said. “She amplified, continued and began new efforts to look candidly at the history of our University, establishing the President’s Commission on Slavery and the University, which explored the role of enslaved laborers in UVA’s history. In her typical style, Terry took on this work with clear eyes and humility, claiming that any president would have done the same. Terry brought plans for the Memorial to Enslaved Laborers to the Board of Visitors for approval, named Gibbons Hall and Skipwith Hall for enslaved laborers and created the President’s Commission on the University in the Age of Segregation.