Messages to the University Community

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  • Sept. 22, 2021: University of Richmond Update (To the University Community)

    Dear Members of the University Community,

    I’m thrilled to be part of our Spider community. The campus is alive with activity, and it is great to be here. While August 15 was my first official day on the job, I have had the opportunity to meet with students, staff, faculty, and alumni for the past six months. These conversations have reinforced my first impressions of the University as a truly rare gem in higher education.

    I say this from a place of experience. I’ve worked and studied at other great institutions and have visited scores of others, and there really is something different about the University of Richmond. Quite simply, it comes down to our amazing people. I’ve been blown away by the love and pride folks have for UR. Our staff and faculty are incredibly committed to mentoring students. Our students are awesome and brilliant. Our University leaders are terrific stewards of the institution. And our alumni are extraordinarily dedicated to the University and have had an amazing impact here and across the world.

    These are just some of the reasons I believe we will be known as the best small university in America. Achieving this goal will take patience, perseverance, and giving each other the benefit of the doubt. And it won’t happen overnight. But together, we will get there. We will soundly and thoughtfully address issues immediately before us while always keeping our eyes on the future. Thanks so much for this incredible opportunity to work with you to strengthen the University and reaffirm the Spider pride we all share.

    TRANSFORMING LIVES WITH ACADEMIC EXCELLENCE

    Time and again, I’ve met people who have been transformed by their academic experience at Richmond. One student shared that "several of my professors have become incredible mentors to me, going out of their way to guide me not just through classes, but through internships, job applications, and life." Good mentors are rare and invaluable, and the Spider community is crawling with them.

    I am especially impressed with how our faculty combine outstanding teaching with outstanding research. Consider, for example, Associate Professor of Political Science Jennifer Bowie, who received a grant from the National Science Foundation to continue her research on judicial decision-making in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. She and her collaborator will use a portion of the grant funds to support the hiring and mentoring of additional undergraduate research assistants from historically underrepresented and excluded groups.

    I am equally impressed with our students’ profound commitment to excellence, service, and leadership. For example, three Jepson Scholars began graduate programs this fall at the University of Oxford. Through the program, the Jepson School of Leadership Studies awards up to three scholarships annually to cover the cost of tuition, room, board, and fees for students accepted to a one-year master’s program at Oxford.

    Six University of Richmond students — the most we’ve ever had in one year — received U.S. Department of State Critical Language Scholarships to study foreign languages abroad or virtually this summer. They will study languages including Chinese, Indonesian, Portuguese, Punjabi, and Urdu, all of which the State Department identifies as undertaught but critical for America’s future national security and economic prosperity.

    CELEBRATING OUR NEWEST SPIDERS

    My wife, Tina, and I spent our first official day on the job in our residence hall staff T-shirts, helping our first wave of new students carry suitcases (and refrigerators!) and move into their residence halls. We had so many interesting conversations with so many amazing students, and we know their future is rich with promise.

    The Class of 2025 comes to Richmond with stellar academic credentials and from a wide variety of backgrounds. This year’s incoming class has the highest grade point average in our history and is also one of our most diverse. Domestic students of color comprise 29% of the class, international students are 10% of the class, and 14% of the class are first-generation college students. They have also had an impressive set of experiences. Our class includes a sailor who competes in overnight sailing regattas and a youth champion of Go, likely the world’s oldest board game. One has already published five research articles and participated in 16 science fairs. And another helped raise $150,000 for children living with chronic pain.

    In my University welcome address, I told our new Spiders that we are all in this together; we can learn best and do our best work by working together. This was just the first step of a very important process — developing their sense of belonging as part of this extraordinary community now and for their entire lives.

    WORKING TOWARD DIVERSITY, EQUITY, INCLUSION, AND BELONGING

    A community member recently asked me how many people at our university work in the DEIB (diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging) space. I think the real answer can and should be 5,700 because we have 4,000 students and 1,700 staff and faculty.

    Last month, I saw a wonderful example of our community embracing DEIB as a shared responsibility when I had the honor of speaking at the grand opening of the Student Center for Equity and Inclusion in Whitehurst Hall. This new center will play a central role in enhancing the experiences of multicultural, LGBTQIA+, low-income, and first-generation students. And it will bolster our many other efforts to become a thriving and inclusive community. I cannot say it enough: We all belong here, and we should all work to ensure that others feel included and have the opportunity to thrive.

    I’m excited to build on the University’s good work around DEIB, and I’d like to share two ways in which all of you can contribute to our efforts to fully and inclusively examine our past, discuss our present, and shape our future. First, consider engaging with the Naming Principles Commission. The Commission has been charged with offering an open and inclusive exchange of ideas as it develops clear and rigorous principles to guide decisions related to the naming of such things as buildings, professorships, and programs. As a member of our Spider community, you will be contacted directly in the coming weeks with an invitation to participate in a Gallup survey that will help inform future naming principles. We really, really want to hear from you. Please do complete the survey. You can also contact the Commission directly and learn more about the community engagement opportunities it will offer.

    Second, consider connecting with the Burying Ground Memorialization Committee. The committee has continued to engage a range of stakeholders, most recently welcoming 78 possible descendants of people once enslaved on what is now campus land and sharing with them research about their families’ histories. The committee will host several events this October and November in which descendants and community members can share their ideas on the design of an enduring burying ground memorial. For more information and to register, please visit our Equity webpage here.

    SPIDERS HELPING SPIDERS

    One of the many things that drew me to UR during the presidential recruitment process was Spiders’ commitment to one another. I am grateful to our many alumni and friends of the University for their continued engagement and support of our students, staff, and faculty — from volunteering and representing UR in your communities and among potential students to hiring Spiders and providing financial support to the areas of campus you care most about. This generosity makes it possible for our university to transform the lives of our students and set them on a course to do good and make a positive impact on society.

    I look forward to nurturing this strong UR tradition of support. From November 16–23, we will hold the annual Spiders Helping Spiders event. This weeklong event supports giving to financial aid, the Student Emergency Fund, and the Career Opportunity Fund; each directly impacts students. Support for these funds will play a critical role in leveling the playing field by empowering all our students to take full advantage of the opportunities available to them.

    MAINTAINING THE HEALTH OF OUR WEB

    Last weekend, I was simply delighted to welcome the Class of 2020 back to campus to celebrate their graduation from the University of Richmond. These students demonstrated remarkable grace and resilience when they had to finish the final few months of their college education from a distance and delay their commencement. I was thrilled that we could finally all be together, and I was grateful for the opportunity to congratulate our graduates and thank them and their wonderful families and friends for their patience and understanding as we responded to COVID-19. We are so very proud of the Class of 2020, and I can’t wait to follow their accomplishments as alumni and to welcome them back to Richmond when they visit.

    This past month, I’ve heard from so many students about how excited they are to be on campus learning in the classrooms of our outstanding teacher-scholars. I am so grateful to all of our students, staff, and faculty for their collective efforts to make this in-person semester possible. As of September 16, 99.7% of students reported their vaccination status, and they reported a vaccination rate of 96.0%. The reporting and vaccination rates for staff and faculty at that time were 97.7% and 92.6%, respectively. Still, the course of the pandemic continues to be unpredictable, particularly because of the Delta variant. For this reason, we have temporarily implemented a policy requiring face coverings within buildings and continue to take other steps to minimize the spread of the virus.

    At the same time, we are beginning to face the very real possibility that the virus will be with us for years to come and certainly through the end of this academic year. As such, while we will continue to monitor conditions and work to maintain the health of our web, it is my belief that we will also need to learn to live with this on our campus and in society. Rest assured, this virus will not deter our university from continuing to transform lives and contribute to society. Our best days are ahead.

    CHEERING ON OUR STUDENT-ATHLETES

    While I’m only a month into my role as president, I am already a rabid Spider fan. I love athletics, both as an observer and as a participant.

    It is clear that so many members of our campus community are thrilled to return to regular athletic competition. Tina and I — and our two rescue dogs, Mabel and Matilda — have loved experiencing our community’s Spider Pride in our student-athletes. The first game we attended was Women’s Soccer’s win against Longwood University. We had a chance to attend a team picnic afterward and talk with many wonderful families supporting these amazing student-athletes.

    I’ve also had the chance to watch our football, men’s and women’s cross country, and field hockey teams in action, as well as to attend our Athletics leadership kickoff reception; I even recently fielded some ground balls and took some swings at bat with the baseball team! These events have reinforced the enormous respect I have for our student-athletes. They are leaders not just in athletics but also in our greater Spider community. I will always be an enthusiastic fan and supporter of our student-athletes, and I can’t wait to see everything they accomplish in athletics and academics and their future careers.

    SOME CLOSING THOUGHTS

    As I close this first quarterly letter to the Spider community, I want to say how grateful and lucky I feel to serve as the 11th president of the University of Richmond. I am excited that Tina and I are finally here on campus and am eager for the work ahead. I pledge to you that I will remain guided by the core leadership values that I often express. One of them is effort. I believe that our outcomes are a combination of luck, ability, and effort. Given I cannot control my luck and I’ve long thought that my ability is largely fixed, I work very hard, and I respect hard work. You can count on me to serve the University with the best I have to offer.

    Over the coming year, I plan to meet as many Spiders as I can on campus and off. As part of this effort, I am partnering with the University of Richmond Alumni Association in support of events that will help us gather with Spiders in various cities across the country once we can safely do so. I’m also excited for Family Weekend, October 1–3, my first UR Homecoming, November 5–7, and the many other opportunities we will have to get to know one another.

    I believe deeply that the best way for us to make Richmond even better is to make it better together. Please continue to take care of yourselves and look out for others.

    Best wishes, 

    Kevin F. Hallock
    President

  • Aug. 16, 2021: Beginning Our Journey Together (To Alumni)

    Dear Spider Alumni:

    This week marks my first as a Spider, and I couldn’t be prouder to be joining this incredible community, which extends far beyond this beautiful campus. I have much to learn about UR, but I can plainly see that in addition to our outstanding students, faculty, and staff, part of the secret of the University’s success is the dedication of its alumni.

    I am so impressed with the breadth and depth of the work being done by our staff, faculty, and students, and the impact Spiders have on the world as alumni. I am proud of the excellence that we have achieved and will continue to achieve together. I also know how much is enabled by the support of our alumni and the many ways you are involved in helping our students.  

    It is, indeed, an honor to serve as both a faculty member and as the 11th president of UR. I recognize the enormity of this privilege as I continue to reflect on the many opportunities that have come to me and the series of mentors who helped me along the way. As president, I pledge to pay forward the generous help I’ve received and to serve and support others in the important work that they do.

    I am grateful and excited to work alongside all in our dedicated Spider community to strengthen this amazing university. Today, UR is not only a leading liberal arts institution defined by academic excellence, but also by high standards and strong values, outstanding athletics and extracurricular opportunities, vibrant professional schools and community engagement, and the genuine intellectual curiosity I see in so many. I would like to thank my predecessors — and all Spiders — for laying this foundation of excellence, especially President Ron and Dr. Betty Neal Crutcher, who welcomed my wife, Tina, and me with generous hearts and open arms.

    I am also grateful and excited to join a university with such strong values, including intellectual curiosity, resilience, integrity, and responsibility for the ethical consequences of our ideas and actions. They align with leadership values I hold dear: integrity, transparency, effort, inclusion, well-being, collegiality, and giving the benefit of the doubt.

    On this last one, I believe being kind, caring, empathetic, and patient as much as possible is essential. People are often so busy that we sometimes work at cross purposes and don’t take the time to truly hear one another. Universities can and must serve as models of constructive dialogue, especially across differences. As is often the case in complex institutions, not everyone here agrees on everything — and that is good — but everyone cares and wants to make Richmond even better. I believe the best way to do so is to make it better together, and alumni participation in the life of the campus is critical to that success.

    As I begin my presidency, I promise to listen and learn from our community. I want to be very deliberate about taking the time to understand the needs, concerns, and culture of the University, including its alumni. I have so much to learn from so many people here, and I intend to do just that and look forward to doing it as we work together to forge an even brighter future for UR.

    With your help, I envision Richmond continuing its progress and becoming the nation’s best small university and a place where everyone feels the enormous sense of belonging that Tina and I have experienced thus far. Achieving this goal will take patience, perseverance, and giving each other the benefit of the doubt. And it won’t happen overnight. But together, we can get there. I am grateful and lucky to be embarking on this journey with all of you. I believe that the best days for our university are ahead.

    I look forward to meeting alumni across the country as I travel this year and to welcoming you home to Richmond when you’re next able to visit campus. Please remember to take care of yourself and look out for others, and thank you for everything you do for Richmond. 

    With gratitude,

    Kevin F. Hallock
    Professor and President

  • Aug. 16, 2021: Beginning Our Journey Together (To Students, Staff, and Faculty)

    Dear Students, Staff, and Faculty: 

    Yesterday was my first official day as a Spider, and I was so excited to spend time with students and their families and experience the energy of our first move-in day of the academic year. Today is my first official day in the office, and I couldn’t be prouder to be working alongside our outstanding staff and faculty to support the holistic development of our students and the production of scholarly and creative work. I have much to learn about UR, but I can plainly see that part of the secret of the University’s success is the staff and faculty’s profound commitment to our educational mission — and our students’ equally profound commitment to excellence.

    I am so impressed with the breadth and depth of the work being done by our staff, faculty, and students, and I am proud of the excellence that we have achieved and will continue to achieve together. Each of our 4,000 students and 1,700 staff and faculty make important contributions to this extraordinary institution. Everyone on this campus shares in its success.

    It is, indeed, an honor to serve as both a faculty member and as the 11th president of UR. I recognize the enormity of this privilege as I continue to reflect on the many opportunities that have come to me and the series of mentors who helped me along the way. As president, I pledge to pay forward the generous help I’ve received and to serve and support others in the important work that they do.

    I am grateful and excited to work alongside all of you to strengthen this amazing university. Today, UR is not only a leading liberal arts institution defined by academic excellence, but also by high standards and strong values, outstanding athletics and extracurricular opportunities, vibrant professional schools and community engagement, and the genuine intellectual curiosity I see in so many. I would like to thank my predecessors — and all Spiders — for laying this foundation of excellence, especially President Ron and Dr. Betty Neal Crutcher, who welcomed my wife, Tina, and me with generous hearts and open arms. 

    I am also grateful and excited to join a university with such strong values, including intellectual curiosity, resilience, integrity, and responsibility for the ethical consequences of our ideas and actions. They align with leadership values I hold dear: integrity, transparency, effort, inclusion, well-being, collegiality, and giving the benefit of the doubt.

    On this last one, I believe being kind, caring, empathetic, and patient as much as possible is essential. People are often so busy that we sometimes work at cross purposes and don’t take the time to truly hear one another. Universities can and must serve as models of constructive dialogue, especially across differences. As is often the case in complex institutions, not everyone here agrees on everything — and that is good — but everyone cares and wants to make Richmond even better. I believe the best way to do so is to make it better together.  

    As I begin my presidency, I promise to listen and learn from our community. I want to be very deliberate about taking the time to understand the needs, concerns, and culture of the University. I have so much to learn from so many people here, and I intend to do just that and look forward to doing it as we work together to forge an even brighter future for UR.

    With your help, I envision Richmond continuing its progress and becoming the nation’s best small university and a place where everyone feels the enormous sense of belonging that Tina and I have experienced thus far. Achieving this goal will take patience, perseverance, and giving each other the benefit of the doubt. And it won’t happen overnight. But together, we can get there. I am grateful and lucky to be embarking on this journey with all of you. I believe that the best days for our university are ahead.

    I look forward to seeing you all on our campus soon! Please remember to take care of yourself and look out for others. 

    With gratitude,

    Kevin F. Hallock
    Professor and President

Speeches

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  • Colloquy, Aug. 18, 2021

    Colloquy
    University of Richmond
    Kevin F. Hallock
    August 18, 2021

    Good afternoon, everyone. Thanks so much for being here.  I am so happy to see you all. 

    I have enjoyed getting to know various members of our staff and faculty this summer, and I look forward to meeting every single one of you in the coming days, weeks and months. 

    Thank you all for your amazing work for this university, our students and each other. And my congratulations to this year’s Distinguished Educator and Distinguished Scholarship Award recipients – and our newly appointed Endowed Chairs.

    I am proud to be among the 1700 people who work at the University of Richmond.

    I also want to thank President Crutcher and Dr. Betty Neal Crutcher for all of their efforts in advancing the University of Richmond over the past six years. 

    They welcomed my wife, Tina, and me with generous hearts and open arms.

    We look forward to spending more time with them – and know they will continue to be deeply valued members of our community. 

    Before I say too much more, I also want to take a moment and acknowledge where we are right now – still fighting a pandemic – and to thank all of you for working together to support each other.

    Heading into the new academic year, I realize that we are not where we had hoped we would be by now. COVID continues to disrupt all of our lives, causing stress, anxiety and fatigue – and exacerbating inequalities in our society and across the world.  

    There are no perfect answers, but we are all in this together.

    Please do join us for a virtual Staff and Faculty Townhall meeting about health and safety on campus tomorrow at 11:30 am. And let’s continue to take care of ourselves and each other.


    We Just Got Here, and are grateful:

    I moved to Richmond less than three weeks ago with Tina, and our two dogs, Mabel and Matilda.  And I have served as president for just under 100 hours

    People have been asking me: “How’s it going”? 

    My response to them is often a lot like when I’m asked about my marriage of 30 years: “so far, so good”.  

    In all seriousness, though, I am absolutely delighted to be president … and with the marriage.  I am grateful and feel lucky for both.

    I’d like to tell you a little bit about why I am particularly grateful to serve as a faculty member and as president at the University of Richmond. 

    For the last 16 years, Tina and I lived in Ithaca, NY.  Eleven months ago, we bought a new house there and planned to be there for a very long time. 

    We were happy in Ithaca, and I was leading a large college that had roughly the same size budget as Richmond – and just about the same number of students.

    Just a few months later, however, I received a call that you were searching for a new colleague to serve as president.

    So, what did I do?  As an economist, I immediately read your tax returns.  And then your webpages.  And just about every other thing I could find. 

    Then, I began speaking with staff, faculty, students, trustees, parents, and other friends of the university, and I learned about what makes this institution so remarkable.  And before I knew it, I couldn’t look away.

    Everyone I met loved the University of Richmond.  Everyone.  To be sure, not everyone agreed on everything. 

    And of course, we were being recruited, so I was not introduced to a random selection of staff, students, faculty or alumni.  But the overwhelming enthusiasm seemed strange. 

    That is until I started noticing the following theme in nearly every single conversation I had: Richmond’s staff and faculty are extraordinarily devoted to teaching, mentoring and supporting our students. 

    I was inspired by what I heard, what I read, and what I saw. I just couldn’t pass up this opportunity to be part of this community of teacher-scholars and serve this remarkable university.

    And sure enough, I’ve continued to meet people who were transformed by their experience here.

    I met a Spider parent this summer who credited her children’s rich learning with the deep “access and relationships” they have with their professors.

    I was moved but not surprised, given that time and again, I’ve also heard from faculty about innovative teaching that inspires students.

    Good mentors are rare and invaluable, and the Spider community is crawling with them.  I am grateful and delighted to be standing in front of so many of them today. 


    What else do I love about Richmond?

    There is so much more I love about Richmond:

    • The intellectual curiosity, ability and drive of our academic community.
    • The high standards and strong ethics of our institution.
    • The wonderful values that Spiders hold dear – from student growth and responsible stewardship, to diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging
    • The teacher-scholar mentality – which I first thought was just a slogan. It is real, and it is amazing.
    • The unique and unusual make-up of our university, with its amazing focus on the liberal arts and sciences but also with excellent professional schools. Few can compete with us here.
    • And our outstanding academics, complemented by excellent co-curricular and extra-curricular activities – from our terrific athletics programs, to our robust community engagement opportunities, to our wonderful study abroad programs.

    I could go on and on.

    I am grateful and excited to work alongside you all to build on Richmond’s many strengths and forge an even brighter future.


    Leadership Values:

    As we embark on this journey together, I believe I owe it to all of you, who have done so much to shape this fine institution, to give you a sense of how I plan to lead. 

    In particular, I would like to share with you some of my guiding values. There are six I will mention.

    1. Integrity. Everything we do should be done honestly, objectively, fairly and by the book. I cannot stress this enough.  Indeed, if we are to fulfill our mission of preparing students for responsible citizenship and leadership, we must now and always model integrity.
    2. Transparency. We are all better off when all university constituents are well-informed. To that end, I pledge to always be as transparent with you as I can. I have worked hard throughout my career to be transparent and will continue to do so.
    3. Effort. Working hard is important, plain and simple. I think that our outcomes are some function of ability, effort and luck.  I can’t do much about my ability or my luck, but I can control my effort.  So, I work very hard, and I respect hard work.  But I don’t expect anyone to sacrifice their well-being. We must strive to find balance, which brings me to my next value.   
    4. Well-Being. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that we must always take time to care for ourselves and look out for one another. Which is why I intend to continue the university’s good work of fostering a culture of well-being. We are so fortunate to have a beautiful new Well-Being Center and excellent programs such as U-R WELL. I will strive to model behavior that speaks to our university’s focus on well-being.
    5. Inclusion and Belonging. To speak of a true community is to speak of an inclusive community in which all members can thrive and achieve an enormous sense of belonging. This is a particularly salient issue at our university and in our country.

    We should all be proud that our students increasingly hail from diverse backgrounds; represent diverse beliefs; and come from all over this nation and planet, as do our staff, faculty, and alumni.

    But there is more work to do.

    I intend to build on the university’s good work ensuring everyone feels a true sense of belonging – and ask that you join me and embrace this endeavor as a shared responsibility. 

    1. Collegiality and giving the benefit of the doubt. I believe being kind, caring, empathetic, and patient as much as possible is essential. People are often so busy that we sometimes work at cross purposes and don’t hear one another.

    Universities can and must serve as models of constructive dialogue, especially across difference.

    As is often the case in complex institutions, not everyone here agrees on everything — and that is good — but everyone cares and wants to make Richmond even better. I believe the best way to do it is to do it together.


    Liberal Arts and Coming from a Business School:

    Now, in addition to my values, I bring with me life experiences that will shape my leadership at Richmond.

    Some may ask: what business does a former business college dean have leading a liberal arts college? And how will his economics background inform his leadership? 

    I understand that question, and I’d answer it by saying that an economist isn’t necessarily about studying how to make money. 

    In fact, economists think about the allocation of scarce resources, subject to constraints.  Economists think about maximizing things, not only profits. 

    It could be maximizing student performance, reducing poverty, and even happiness.  And it could be minimizing things, such as poverty or violence.

    I have spent my career studying labor markets, including issues such as the gender wage gap and how people are paid.

    And I have greatly benefitted from working side by side with colleagues studying creativity, psychology, development, poverty, history and ethics. 

    Indeed, my colleagues in these fields have shaped my thinking on liberal education.

    Hunter Rawlings, a classicist and former president of two major universities – including one I just left – writes eloquently about a “liberal education” in the true Latin sense.

    He describes it as “an education for [a] free people … to think for themselves as individuals, to develop their creative capacities, and to contribute to public life”.  He notes, and I completely agree, that we need people to:

    • Read closely and think critically.
    • Reason intelligently and ethically.
    • Speak and write clearly and persuasively.
    • Be able to do independent research
    • And analyze quantitative arguments common to math and the sciences 

    After just a few short months of having inspiring conversations with so many of you, I am confident that we at Richmond are preparing our students to do exactly these things.

    Yes, I am economist by training, but I firmly believe that to continue preparing students for a diverse and complex world, we must keep at bay the forces calling to measure everything as an economic rate of return. 

    Economists like to measure the net present value.  In this context, that might mean measuring how much does it “cost” to go to college and how much more will one earn in their lifetime after going to college, relative to not going. 

    Of course, it is natural to think of these things.  But they often miss two very important issues: 

    • First, people might actually enjoy being a college student.

    The experiences our students have learning in our classrooms and participating in co-curricular and extra-curricular activities are undoubtedly rewards in and of themselves. These benefits are often not included in cost-benefit calculations. 

    • Second, there are enormous benefits to a college education beyond a larger paycheck. These benefits, too, are often ignored in the cost-benefit calculations. And that’s a shame. 

    To instill a sense of wonder and cultivate lifelong learning are perhaps the greatest gifts that a liberal arts education bestows on students;

    For such gifts will help our students appreciate art and music in new ways; engage across difference and recognize our common humanity; lead happier and more fulfilling lives; and so much more.

    I am incredibly excited to be a faculty member at Richmond – and to work alongside each of you to enrich our students lives through the power of a liberal arts education.   


    Privilege: 

    Now, just as my background as an economist has shaped who I am today – I must acknowledge that my privilege helped me get to where I am today.   

    My parents grew up with very modest means and were the first in their families to attend college, but I didn’t grow up in difficult social or financial circumstances.

    I grew up in a small farming town in western Massachusetts.  For five summers in junior high and high school, I earned what I thought was a lot of money working 48-hour weeks in cucumber and tobacco fields. 

    It was miserable work, and I much prefer what I do today.  But it gave me an appreciation for different kinds of work – and a view of a part of the labor market that I might never have seen had I grown up in another time and place.  I have picked a lot of cucumbers.

    But the fact remains that I didn’t need to pick cucumbers or work in the tobacco fields.  I had every possible advantage to get to where I am standing today, and I understand that and don’t take it for granted. 

    I recognize and acknowledge the enormous privilege and advantages I have had.  I am a white male born in the United States in 1969. 

    My father was a professor of physics at the same institution for 50 consecutive years.  My mother was a pediatric nurse practitioner.  They instilled in me an enormous work ethic and wonder of learning. 

    I decided I wanted to be a professor when I was in middle school, and I have had advice from amazing mentors on how to do it pretty much every day since. 

    Yet, as much as I have learned in my life, I do not know what it is like to walk in the shoes of many others.  But I do strive to have the intellectual curiosity, empathy, and interest to listen and try to understand.

    We must seek out opportunities to listen to, learn from, and support one other. And we must work together to eliminate racism and advance diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging.

    I don’t say this lightly. 

    I understand that racism and oppression are multi-dimensional, and, as the past year shows, must be combatted on many fronts –including for example anti-Black racism and anti-Asian racism, antisemitism and xenophobia.

    I look forward to listening to and learning from all of you about how we can continue and improve the university’s good work advancing its interconnected goals of representation, belonging, and capability.

    Goals that will help us to become a community where each member can thrive.


    The Commission and Naming Principles: 

    Most immediately, I look forward to listening to and learning from the Naming Principles Commission. 

    I want to thank the members of the commission, which includes student, staff, faculty, alumni and greater Richmond community representatives.

    This is extraordinarily important work and will take time, patience and great effort. 

    I am grateful to the commission’s members for sharing their time to serve our university. 

    Fundamental to the commission’s charge is to offer an open exchange of ideas and views.

    I want to encourage you all to share your views with the commission, during listening sessions this fall, through the Gallup survey, or by contacting the commission directly.

    The commission is charged with delivering a report to the board of trustees and to me. 

    I look forward to receiving that report later this academic year, and I pledge to listen and learn from the community as the commission conducts its very important work.


    Early Ideas for an Agenda:

    I hope I have given you all a sense of where I come from, why I accepted the University of Richmond presidency, and how I plan to lead.

    I would now like to say a few words about how I think this remarkable university can be even more remarkable. 

    My aim here is to be transparent with you about some of the ideas that are top of mind as I begin my presidency.

    • First and foremost, I have no intention of getting ahead of the community in setting priorities.

    I want to be very deliberate about taking the time to understand the needs, concerns and culture of the university.

    So, as I have said before and will say again, my first priority is to listen and learn.  I have so much to learn from so many people, and I intend to do just that and look forward to doing it.

    • Second, I very much intend to continue the university’s efforts to foster well-being and belonging for every - single - member of our community: students, staff, faculty, and alumni.

    I mentioned earlier the amazing outpouring of support that Tina and I have enjoyed.  This should be true for every person who joins our Spider community. 

    If we embrace this work as a shared responsibility, I am confident that well-being and belonging can be a hallmark of the Richmond experience.

    • Third, I want to spend more time thinking about affordability and cost. This is a serious problem, but we are amazingly fortunate to have remarkable resources to help families defray the costs of education. 

    Still, as prices continue to go up, we can always use more resources. To make a Richmond education more affordable and accessible, I imagine dedicating significant time to thinking carefully about raising money for scholarships. 

    • Fourth, I’d like to think carefully about our connections to the city with which we share a name.

    There are numerous opportunities for the University of Richmond community to build on its good work learning from and contributing to the City of Richmond, and vice versa.

    This could well be a comparative advantage for us.  We are like other liberal arts universities and colleges in some ways, but we have an extraordinary city right here that many of our competitors do not have. 

    Putting Richmond firmly on the national and international map could very well start right at home.

    • Finally, I want to think carefully about defining our other comparative advantages. Our close proximity to an amazing city is one; others may be the Richmond Guarantee – and the amazing mentoring relationships you have with our students.

    Let’s continue to ask ourselves: How can we do even more to enrich our students’ lives through holistic development?

    Conclusion

    To conclude, I have been so incredibly impressed with the breadth and depth of the work being done by our staff, faculty and students.  The University of Richmond is truly an amazing institution. 

    Everyone I’ve met feels great pride in – and a special connection to – the university.  

    They don’t all agree on the issues – including very important ones – but they seem universally committed to strengthening this great institution.  I share that commitment.

    As I think about where we might go next, and how we might get there, I invite you all to join me in this endeavor – and encourage you to think differently and contribute ideas.

    Times of leadership change are times to think anew.  If you have an idea for how to transform or improve the lives of our students, staff or faculty, tell someone…tell me.  

    If you had the same idea five years ago and it was shot down, try again.  If you had that idea 5 weeks ago and it was shot down, try again.

    And if you have a big idea that will take a long time, bring it on.  I am only 52 years old, have a lot of energy, and imagine myself here for a very long time.

    As I’ve said today, I have a lot to learn about our Spider community. But working side by side with you, I am confident we can make the University of Richmond the best small university in America, where everyone feels an enormous sense of belonging and where we all thrive. 

    It will take patience, perseverance, and giving each other the benefit of the doubt.  And it won’t happen overnight.  But together we will get there. I am grateful and lucky to be embarking on this journey with all of you.

    Thank you.