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University of Richmond Update

May 2018

Dear Members of the University Community,

In a little over a week, I will join with professors, staff, families, and friends as we celebrate this year’s commencement ceremonies for the undergraduate Class of 2018, Richmond Law, the School of Professional and Continuing Studies, and the graduate business program. Sometimes, people describe these ceremonies as a culmination, and it’s true that we use the occasion to congratulate our newest alumni on arriving at this important milestone.

Yet, “culmination” is, for me, not quite the right word because it suggests an end to something. It’s been my experience that commencement is, at its core, forward-looking. What we are really celebrating is our shared confidence, with our graduates, that they are equipped to go forth with the capacity to lead lives of purpose, of thoughtful inquiry, and of responsible leadership in an increasingly complex world. Being part of the enterprise that prepares them to do so throughout their lives as fellow Spiders is a profound and fulfilling joy.

Student excellence

This year has offered remarkable evidence of the academic caliber of our students. We can readily see this quality demonstrated with a look at the highly successful first year of the Office of Scholars and Fellowships. More than 100 students applied for national scholarship and fellowship opportunities this year. As of this writing, eight Richmond students and recent alumni were offered grants from the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, making this our most successful year ever for this program. In addition, three students were named Critical Language Scholars, the most in any year since the program began in 2006. We also had one Goldwater Scholar and two honorable mentions, our first-ever finalist for the Gaither Junior Fellowship, and our first Truman finalist since 2013. We launched this new office to help our talented students seek these sorts of honors and the opportunities they present. Reporting our student applicants’ high degree of success this year is deeply gratifying.

The academic excellence of our students was also on full display at this year’s School of Arts and Sciences Student Symposium, where an all-time high of nearly 400 students across North Court, the Modlin Center, and the Jepson Alumni Center presented their research and creativity to the University community. Their projects were grounded in everything from evolutionary biology to early Christian art, from gender inequality in Uganda to biodiversity management on UR’s campus. The range of their work spoke to the range of opportunities our approach to liberal arts affords students to pursue and the confidence with which they pursue them.

Spider Talks

The commitment to academic excellence is first among equals of the pillars of our strategic plan, and our faculty are at the heart of our efforts to infuse it into everything we do. This spring, we launched the first four episodes of Spider Talks, an ongoing series of my conversations with accomplished faculty from across the University. In these monthly videos, we often explore what inspired a particular faculty member to pursue his or her discipline. The joy of discovery and revelation that they share mirrors the inspiration our students feel in their classes as they are introduced to new knowledge, ideas, and ways of seeing the world. Our conversations always leave me impressed by the scholarship, teaching skill, and deep mentoring relationships that are at the heart of Richmond’s distinctive educational environment. The series will conclude for the semester with a conversation with physics professor Jack Singal in the coming weeks and then resume with new interviews in the fall.

Divergent views

In March, we concluded our 2017–18 Sharp Viewpoint Speakers Series with a talk by Karl Rove, a columnist, political strategist, and the former deputy chief of staff to President George W. Bush. We invited Rove to campus for the same reason we invited immigration activist Jose Antonio Vargas, both of Virginia’s major-party candidates for governor, and the former president and CEO of the Newseum, Jeffrey Herbst. By design, the Sharp Series presents competing views on topics crucial to our nation and global society. Our students tell us that they want the opportunity to hear different perspectives from across the political spectrum. As campus leaders, we are and must be unapologetic champions for the free and open exchange of ideas and for the potential of debate and discussion to transform society. When the Sharp Series resumes in the fall semester, I look forward to another diverse group of speakers who will spark thoughtful conversations in an environment that models substantive disagreement and dialogue that stimulates thought and expands perspectives.

Travels to alumni

A significant focus of mine this academic year has been to advance the commitment to alumni engagement in the current strategic plan. Staff recently reported to me just how much traveling I have been doing as I meet with alumni, donors, prospective students and their families, and participate in programs and interviews to advance the University’s reputation. They tell me that through May, I will have logged nearly 20,000 miles as I visited 11 states, attended 12 receptions, and held 52 meetings with the specific purpose of engaging our alumni. I wrote earlier in this letter of commencement as a celebration of the promise of each year’s graduates. In my meetings with our alumni, I see that promise unfolding. Their enthusiasm in its many forms supports all of us, from their conversations about Richmond with prospective students, their willingness to help current students, their cheering for our athletic teams, their participation in our events, their communication with us, and their personal philanthropy.

Volunteers fuel our progress

One important source of the University’s strength is the alumni and friends who support our mission and express their confidence in Richmond by sharing with us their time and remarkable talents. Many of them serve quietly but powerfully by providing mentoring opportunities for students, hosting events for alumni and parents, serving on advisory groups, or making important career connections for graduates. Still others provide leadership and guidance as members of the University’s Board of Trustees.

I want to thank two outstanding alumni volunteers who will soon conclude their service as rector and vice rector of our Board of Trustees: Patricia L. Rowland, W’77 and GB’81, and Leonard W. Sandridge Jr., B’64, respectively. I also extend my gratitude to two dedicated and extraordinarily generous volunteers who have agreed to serve as the next rector and vice rector following an election by the board: Paul B. Queally, R’86, and Allison P. Weinstein. Paul and Allison have distinguished themselves as leaders in business and philanthropy, and have long tenures of generosity and service to Richmond. I look forward to continuing to work with them and the entire board, and also with the many other volunteers who do so much each year to support the University and provide opportunities for our students.

Well-being and Spider success

I’m pleased to report on two recent lead gifts from a pair of alumni couples. These gifts will significantly advance the well-being of our students and the academic and athletic experiences of our student-athletes. A lead gift commitment from the Walrath Family Foundation — established by Michael and Michelle Walrath, ’97 and ’98, respectively —has launchedfundraising for a new Well-Being Center. In their conversations with me, the Walraths emphasized their desire that Richmond become a leader in the campus health and well-being movement so that our students now and in the future may graduate healthier and happier and live better lives. Their commitment positions us to do so as we build on the longstanding impact of the Weinstein Center for Recreation and the new Health and Well-Being Unit in Student Development.

Paul and Anne-Marie Queally, both 1986 alumni,continuedtheir significant investment in a variety of areas across campus with a lead gift commitment in February to construct a new men’s and women’s basketball training and performance facility. The new Queally Athletic Center will enhance the day-to-day experience of our basketball players, coaches, and staff, and assure prospective recruits of our commitment to excellence. Its benefits will extend to all student-athletes by becoming home to academic support areas, a sign of Richmond’s strong record of commitment to their academic success.

Go Spiders

This spring has brought impressive success by our Spider athletic teams. Congratulations are in order for the women’s golf team, which won its third consecutive Patriot League Championship. Two players were particularly outstanding. Junior Sophie DiPetrillo won the program’s first-ever individual conference title, and Lizzie Reedy was the tournament’s top first-year player, finishing in third place overall. The men’s lacrosse team got its second consecutive win over No. 14 University of North Carolina, a five-time national champion. Both the men’s and women’s lacrosse teams have just won their regular season championships and enter their conference tournaments this weekend. We’re very pleased the Robins Stadium will host the Atlantic 10 Women’s Lacrosse Championship. On Saturday, the New York Giantsdrafted Kyle Lauletta, the first Spider quarterback selected in the NFL draft since 1975. With their achievements on the field and in their studies, our players and coaches are excellent ambassadors of the University as they embody our dual commitment to the athletic and academic success of our student-athletes.

Richmond’s community

Two important threads run through the specific topics that this letter addresses. The first thread is the unparalleled breadth and quality of the experiences Richmond offers students in the classroom, on the playing field, in research labs and internship placements, far afield in countries around the world, and through the lifelong bond that develops between all who walk these grounds and become Spiders. We are in many ways already an exemplar of the best that higher education has to offer.

The second thread is the many ways that the entire University of Richmond community comes together to make these experiences possible. This gathering of faculty who teach and pursue new knowledge, the staff who provide, the alumni and friends who guide and support, and, of course, the ambitious, hard-working students themselves signifies an important truth. The University of Richmond is not a place; it is a vision and a purpose. It can reach its potential only through the dynamic support, steadfast dedication, and active engagement of all of us. Knowing this, we do not sit still and contented. Fueled by our energy and resolve, we continue together to put the University of Richmond on a powerful upward trajectory.

Best wishes,

Ronald A. Crutcher
President