On Friday, the University of Virginia Board of Visitors passed a resolution honoring outgoing President Teresa A. Sullivan for her leadership at the University and officially electing her president emerita, effective Aug. 1.
Sullivan, the University’s eighth president and the first woman to hold the office, will complete her term July 31. President-elect James E. Ryan, currently the dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, will start his term as the University’s ninth president the next day.
“Her accomplishments are many and extensive, and she has positioned this university well for its third century,” UVA Rector Frank M. “Rusty” Conner III said as he addressed the board with Sullivan sitting beside him. “There is a momentum that we all feel; it’s palpable.”
“Personally, it has also been a real privilege to work with her,” Conner continued, mentioning Sullivan’s extraordinary energy, resilience and fortitude in the face of large and small challenges.
“Terry, you have our deep and profound appreciation for all that you have done and for the legacy you leave us,” the rector concluded. As he did so, the entire room rose in a standing ovation.
Among the accomplishments highlighted in the resolution, read by board member Tammy S. Murphy, were Sullivan’s efforts to build an excellent faculty during a time of generational turnover, a five-year Cornerstone Plan positioning UVA for success in its third century, a successful $3 billion capital campaign and other fundraising efforts supporting student scholarships, the now-complete renovation of the Rotunda, faculty retention and recruitment and more.
The board also noted the work of the President’s Commission on Slavery and the University and the President’s Commission on the University in the Age of Segregation, created by Sullivan to provide new research and education around the legacy of slavery and the history of race relations at UVA.
Sullivan also oversaw the reorganization of the UVA Health System – named the No. 1 hospital in Virginia for the second consecutive year last year – and led the expansion of UVA’s global operations, including the opening of a new UVA office in China.
Finally, Sullivan has been a champion of affordability and accessibility at UVA, leading many efforts to enhance financial aid and scholarships for students and limit student debt.
As one example, the Bicentennial Scholars Fund, launched in December 2016, has already raised $112 million in donations for need- and merit-based scholarships, together with nearly $100 million in matching funds from the Strategic Investment Fund established under Sullivan’s leadership. That’s a total of $212 million in investment so far, supporting more than 140 new endowments for undergraduate and graduate students.
All of these efforts came at a critical juncture in UVA’s history, as the University community celebrated UVA’s bicentennial and looked ahead to its third century.
After the resolution passed, Sullivan – who will take a research leave in Texas with her husband, UVA law professor Douglas Laycock, before both return to the faculty at UVA – addressed the board one final time and issued a parting challenge.
“I want to leave you with an important question, one that you will have to continue to wrestle with in the future,” she said. “Can UVA continue to be both public and excellent?”
Many believe that goal is not possible in light of various challenges facing higher education, Sullivan noted. However, she said, UVA has consistently defied that notion.
“In every corner of the University of Virginia, we have said ‘no’ to mediocrity and ‘yes’ to excellence,” she said. “We must continue to say ‘no’ to mediocrity, not just once, but continually, making the choice to be excellent day after day, year after year.”
“In the days ahead, President Ryan and the members of this board will carry on the necessity of saying ‘no’ to mediocrity and ‘yes’ to excellence for UVA,” she said. “As you prepare for the hard work ahead, I wish you the very best.”