President John T. Casteen III Peggy Harrison

This fall is a season of change in leadership here at the University. Retirements, departures for senior positions elsewhere and other transitions have created conditions for a remarkable transformation, and one whose scale and swiftness may be unprecedented in our history. The changes provide useful insights into where we are going, and how.

Dr. Garson left the Medicine deanship to become provost in July 2007. He focused immediately on the need to conduct vigorous, purposeful searches for a new generation of deans and other leaders. Since July 2007, we have named five new deans: Paul Mahoney, Law; Meredith Woo, College and Graduate School; Dorrie Fontaine, Nursing; Steven DeKosky, Medicine; and Billy Cannaday, Continuing and Professional Studies this fall. In addition, we have appointed Professor of Biomedical Engineering Tom Skalak vice president for research. We expect to appoint a new vice provost for international programs soon, perhaps before this magazine issue comes to you. We will appoint the first dean of the Batten School in the fall.

By the time all of these appointments are completed, we will have installed nine new academic leaders—or 10, if we include Bob Pianta, who was named dean of the Curry School of Education in May 2007, just prior to Dr. Garson’s appointment.

In the year before classes began here, Mr. Jefferson was seeking professors to fill faculty positions. He wrote that he was “anxious to receive none but of the highest grade.” These new academic leaders meet that standard. All have remarkable experience, talent and ambition. All are stars in their fields.

Paul Mahoney is an expert in corporate law who first came to the Law School faculty in 1990. Succeeding John Jeffries as dean, he joins a distinguished line of scholar-deans who have led the Law School since its beginnings. Dean Mahoney’s considerable talents and visionary leadership will assure that one of America’s great centers of scholarly excellence will continue to thrive.

Professor of Politics Meredith Woo has come to us from the University of Michigan. She is an expert on international political economy and Latin American and East Asian politics. An accomplished teacher, scholar and fundraiser, and former associate dean at Michigan, Dean Woo has come to provide strong leadership for the College and Graduate School at a time when we must improve our standing in the sciences while simultaneously expanding and enriching programs in the fine and performing arts and in other fields.

Dorrie Fontaine has dedicated much of her 36-year nursing career to advocating for better care for critically ill patients. Coming to us from the University of California, San Francisco, Dean Fontaine succeeds Jeanette Lancaster, the University’s longest-serving dean and a national icon in nursing. In Dean Fontaine, we have found a worthy successor—an accomplished scholar, dedicated clinician and innovative administrator.

Joining us from the University of Pittsburgh, Medical School dean and vice president Steven DeKosky is an international leader in Alzheimer’s disease research. Dr. DeKosky’s goal here is to create new models of excellence for the U.S. and the world in education, clinical care, research and community service. He will partner with the Medical Center to develop patient-centered service models that can be used as best practices throughout the University’s Health System.

Dean Billy Cannaday comes to us following service as Virginia’s superintendent of public instruction—the executive officer of the Virginia Department of Education. He has also served as secretary of the Board of Education. Prior to his appointment, Mr. Cannaday was superintendent in two of Virginia’s largest school divisions. His broad experience and his commitment to education will serve him well as he assumes leadership of the School of Continuing and Professional Studies.

Tom Skalak served previously as chair of the Department of Biomedical Engineering in the School of Engineering and Applied Science.  A respected researcher, outstanding teacher, and a leader in pan-University collaboration, he will work closely with the deans of the schools of Medicine, Nursing, Engineering and the College—as well as all other schools—to build research capacity and to differentiate the University from peer universities.

Education dean Bob Pianta is a longtime faculty member in the Curry School and a recognized authority on early childhood education. His proven leadership, transformative research, commitment to excellence and lifelong dedication to the Curry School are serving him well in his role as dean. Backed by uncommon foundation board members and donors, Bob and his faculty have begun ambitious new programs to improve teaching and learning in all levels of education.

As these persons have assumed their new roles, they have brought fresh perspectives, innovative ideas and strong visions to their leadership positions. They were chosen because of their backgrounds, their proven skills and their potential to enhance our standing in their respective areas of leadership. They were chosen also because each one understands and embraces the core ideals that define work and life here—ideals for which they and we offer no apology: intellectual rigor; the free and open exchange of ideas; collegial collaboration in the pursuit of knowledge; unambiguous dedication to the public good; and honor and ethical integrity in all matters.

One of our purposes as stewards of this University is to preserve and re-articulate for our time and for the future the ideals and values that make this UVA. As these new leaders begin their turns at shaping the University’s future, they stand shoulder to shoulder with colleagues, alumni, parents of students, and friends of the University who are committed to excellence in this institution “based on the illimitable freedom of the human mind.”

Please join me in welcoming them.