In January, Teresa Sullivan asked the Board of Visitors to begin a search for her successor.
Citing the University’s strength in its educational offerings, research programs and health system, UVA’s first female president said the time is right to pass the torch. “If we plan for that transition now, my successor will be in place and well prepared for the Bicentennial of the University’s charter in 2019 and for the launch of the Campaign for the University’s Third Century,” Sullivan wrote in a letter to members of the UVA community.
“We have no timetable in mind in which to conclude the search [for the next president], but we intend to be deliberate.”
—Rector William H. Goodwin Jr.
Rector William H. Goodwin Jr. (Darden ’66) and Vice Rector Frank M. “Rusty” Conner III (Col ’78, Law ’81) are co-chairing a search committee that is charged with identifying candidates. The committee, which will receive assistance from an executive search firm, is composed of 11 board members, five faculty members, two students, a senior member of the UVA Medical Center management team and three former board members, including former rectors Thomas F. Farrell II (College ’76, Law ’79) and George Keith Martin (College ’75).
“We intend to conduct a thorough and transparent search,” Goodwin says. “We have no timetable in mind in which to conclude the search, but we intend to be deliberate.”
Sullivan’s contract expires in July 2018 but includes a provision to allow her successor to begin as soon as Nov. 1 of this year; if the Board doesn’t select a successor before the end of her term, or if the president-select is unable to begin on Aug. 1, 2018, the Board can extend her term to May 31, 2019.
Whenever UVA’s new president takes office, Sullivan says, he or she will be in a good position—thanks in part to initiatives that have taken place during her administration’s Cornerstone Plan. They have included the hiring of faculty to offset turnover; the creation of the Meriwether Lewis Institute for Citizen Leadership; an enhanced UVA Career Center; a new UVA China Office in Shanghai and the establishment of the Strategic Investment Fund.
One of the big items on Sullivan’s to-do list when she succeeded John T. Casteen III (Col ’65) as president in 2010 was ensuring the University’s long-term financial health. Today, despite declining state funding, UVA has an AAA bond rating and an annual philanthropic cash flow that has increased by nearly $60 million under Sullivan’s leadership. “That we continue to provide a first-rate education with flat revenues per in-state student results from heroic cost-containment efforts by our staff in operational areas, and our successful advancement efforts,” Sullivan says.
Other accomplishments from Sullivan’s tenure have included the completion of the University’s $3 billion capital campaign in 2013; the Rotunda restoration; and a partnership with Inova Health System. Sullivan, the former provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at the University of Michigan, has recruited several top administrators to the University, including all three executive vice presidents and nine academic deans.
Several media maelstroms—including her failed ouster in 2012 and an explosive Rolling Stone article that was later retracted—led to Fortune magazine’s dubbing Sullivan “the unluckiest president in America,” but Sullivan and her husband, UVA law professor Douglas Laycock, don’t seem to view it that way. “[We] have cherished our opportunity to serve at the University of Virginia,” wrote Sullivan in the letter.
After she has completed her term as president, Sullivan will be named University Professor and President Emerita. Following a research leave, she will join the teaching faculty. But she says there is “unfinished business” before then. “I will be working at full speed for UVA until the very last day of my time in office,” she wrote in her letter. “Part of that work will be to plan a successful leadership transition. Another part of the work—of my work—will be to express my deep gratitude to the members of this community who have made my service as UVA’s president both highly productive and immensely enjoyable.”