While writing about departing University of Virginia President Teresa A. Sullivan, I heard the voice of Richmond dePeyster Talbot Jr. (Col ’66) in my head.
He had written to call out last issue’s column for addressing former UVA President Edgar Shannon as “Shannon” on second reference. He points out that Mr. Shannon was always “Mr. Shannon,” not “Dr.,” not “President” and certainly not “Shannon.”
Says Mr. Talbot’s letter: “Mr. Shannon still deserves the respect.”
I heard the echo of those words each time I wrote “Sullivan” for Sullivan. It was the guilt of having knowingly committed an honorific offense.
My reflexive defense is AP Style, the magazine’s longstanding usage manual, which dispenses with courtesy titles. The last time we recapped a just-ended presidential term, second reference reduced John T. Casteen III (Col ’65, Grad ’66, ’70) to “Casteen,” then as now intending no disrespect.
Still, to Mr. Talbot’s point, I’m old enough to know better. I do still cock an ear when I hear students refer to a professor as “Professor” and the president as “President,” not the “Mr.” or “Ms.” used in earlier times.
The change began at least 10 or 15 years ago. Casteen, president from 1990 to 2010, says that toward the end of his run, he noticed people addressing him more as “President” and less as “Mr.”
The tipping point likely occurred in the summer of 2010, with the arrival of UVA’s first female chief executive, always “President Sullivan,” never “Ms. Sullivan.” No one circulated a memo. The community just spontaneously took to a gender-neutral form of respect. Further along was the evolution from “Mr.” or “Ms.” to “Professor,” Casteen recalls. Maybe one or both of those milestones belong on our timeline of the Sullivan years, part of our cover story.
A brief word on the improvements to our print edition. As you can see, and feel, we’ve traded up to brighter paper stock and the crisp edges of perfect binding. Inside, Art Director Steve Hedberg has introduced a suite of unifying refinements: more captivating display type; a calmer, more confident use of white space; fewer color accents, thus letting words and art deliver most of the impact; and a more versatile design grid.
There’s more. The true test is whether we’ve enhanced your overall experience of paging through the book. Let us know what you think. As mentioned, your comments don't just collect in an inbox; they also echo in our heads.
S. Richard Gard Jr.