U.Va. President John T. Casteen III receives a standing ovation after his speech. Photo by Jane Haley

Retiring University of Virginia President John T. Casteen III used the occasion of his final State of the University speech Tuesday to take a sweeping look back at his 20-year tenure – outlining both the challenges the University has faced and the transformations it has undergone.

“This is my 20th State of the University report, and also my last,” he told a near-capacity audience in Old Cabell Hall Auditorium, which would honor him with a prolonged standing ovation at its conclusion.

Among the changes he noted since 1990:

  • The University has purchased, constructed or is currently constructing 134 buildings, from the Central Grounds Parking Garage and University Bookstore (opened in 1994) to the first buildings of the South Lawn Project (opened in December).
  • The Medical Center now serves twice the number of patients as it did in 1991 with a workforce that has nearly doubled.
  • The student body has become more diverse (from 17.8 percent minority to 25.5 percent) and more female (from 50 percent female to 56 percent).
  • The curriculum has become much more interdisciplinary. Public service opportunities for faculty and students are rising. There are at least 10 new majors, three new minors, and four new concentrations.
  • Technology provides fingertip access to a wealth of information that was simply unthinkable 20 years ago. The Library of Congress, Casteen noted, has 74 terabytes of digitized material online; with the University’s current Internet pipeline, it would take 17 hours to download all of it. Using the University’s 1990-era connection, it would have taken 13 years.

All of this growth and change, however, has occurred despite a “collapse of state support,” he said, which caused the University to get serious about private fund-raising.

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