Join me in welcoming Teresa A. Sullivan to the University of Virginia as our eighth president. The University achieved a great deal during the last two decades under John Casteen’s extraordinary leadership. In Terry, as John has often stated, we have found an excellent successor ready to lead us forward.
While completing her work as provost at the University of Michigan and prior to her first day on the job on Aug. 2, Terry began gaining familiarity with the University community with six weekends on Grounds that included discussions with President Casteen and dozens of other University administrators, student leaders, faculty members and local education officials. And that doesn’t include trips to Washington, New York and Richmond to meet with alumni. Calls and visits with governmental and educational leaders of Virginia have occurred or have been scheduled.
She also toured the Grounds —which included visits to the University hospital, the art museum and academic facilities—attended classes and labs, went to a women’s basketball game and visited all of the University’s recreational facilities.
Terry told us early on that during her first 100 days in Charlottesville she planned to walk, talk and drive her way around the University and the Commonwealth—to listen and to learn. So if you happen to be on Grounds this fall, you are likely to run into our new president.
If you see her, please introduce yourself—and tell her why you love the University of Virginia.
Her husband of 39 years, Douglas Laycock, a fellow debater she met while an undergrad at Michigan State, has joined the faculty of the School of Law, much to the dean’s delight. Doug is a well-known legal scholar and one of the nation’s leading authorities on religious freedom and on the law of remedies—what a court can do for a claimant who has been wronged.
While she has already met some of you here on Grounds, she is looking forward to meeting many more alumni at events across the country and at Carr’s Hill, her new home.
As you know, Terry previously served as provost and executive vice president of academic affairs at Michigan. A leading scholar in labor force demography, she is an extraordinary talent who brings to the University an enormous depth and breadth of experience in every aspect of public higher education.
At our annual board retreat in July, Terry outlined some of the key issues she hopes to address in the first year of her presidency. One is the transition of senior University leadership, and another is the implementation of enhanced and more transparent systems to allocate financial resources that, she believes, will result in increased entrepreneurship, efficiencies, effectiveness and achievement in each of the University’s schools. The greatest challenge, she acknowledged, will be financial resources.
The search committee identified many attributes we believed to be important in a University president. We wanted a leader who could create a vision for the future, a distinguished academic who understands the work of our faculty, yet grasps the significance and complexities of the nonacademic aspects of the University.
We wanted someone of impeccable integrity who would engage alumni, understand our unique student experience, have a love of teaching and research, be familiar with academic medicine and health care, be committed to diversity, understand college athletics, and embrace our aspirations beyond those of many public universities.
Finally, we wanted someone who could appreciate the values and traditions of our University, from Mr. Jefferson’s founding principles to our commitment to honor and student self-governance. We also wanted someone who would understand the important role of the College at Wise.
Terry is a remarkable match to our lofty aspirations. Her vast experience and successful track record—and her own personal values—are a perfect fit for the University.
During her 27 years at the University of Texas and four years at Michigan, she worked her way through the ranks in the academic and administrative realms. She moved from instructor to department chair to vice provost to vice president and dean of graduate studies and finally executive vice chancellor of the Texas system, with the nine academic campuses reporting to her.
As provost at Michigan, she oversaw a significant budget, served on the board of the health care system and worked closely with athletics.
All the while, Terry never stopped teaching or publishing; she says this work has always connected her to students and faculty and to her research.
She is a truly rare person who is enormously accomplished academically, but who thoroughly comprehends the other significant aspects of public higher education. Terry is also a wonderful communicator and listener, and just plain good company.
Heywood Fralin, our former rector and a member of the search committee, summed it up: “Terry is as knowledgeable about the issues facing higher education as anyone I’ve met in the last 20 years. She will be an outstanding president in every respect.”
Terry Sullivan, we welcome you to the University as a new member of our community and our family.