Koelemay's Kosmos

Doug Koelemay


Virginians of the Year

Fifteen women and men used the challenges of 2002 to show Virginians what resilience, commitment and leadership are all about.


Selecting Virginians of the Year, even for a Kosmos-sized piece of Bacon's Rebellion, requires one to seek out candidates with vision, courage, honesty, leadership and accomplishment. Reviewing the challenges and events of 2002 brings the 15 women and men who lead the senior colleges and universities of the Commonwealth right to the top of the list.


The selection process was straightforward. Standing where budget deceit and real numbers collide, where quality education competes with passing fancy and where political pressures whittle down truth, 13 presidents, one superintendent and one chancellor were honest in putting the difficult financial and quality choices squarely to their students, faculty, staff and boards of visitors.


Not only did these leaders of four-year institutions of higher education adjust on the fly to record reductions in their operating budgets three separate times in the last 12 months, they led the campaign to approve an historic bond referendum to boost capital investment in research and classroom facilities. More than seven out of ten voters in November found the case they made for excellence and improvement compelling. They also brought 2002 Nobel Prize winners to George Mason University and Virginia Commonwealth University.


The University of Virginia's John Casteen sums up their commitment to excellence as "a process, a mode of thinking, and an ongoing exercise in planning and improvement." Virginia State University's Eddie Moore summarizes the efforts of these higher education leaders as combining "community service and the pursuit of knowledge." So here are the 2002 Kosmos Virginians of the Year winners in alphabetical order.


William M. Anderson, Jr., President, Mary Washington College


Josiah Bunting, III, Superintendent, Virginia Military Institute


John T. Casteen, III, President, University of Virginia


Patricia Picard Cormier, President, Longwood University


Douglas Covington, President, Radford University


Stephen H. Kaplan, Chancellor, University of Virginia's College at Wise


Marie V. McDemmond, President, Norfolk State University


Alan G. Merten, President, George Mason University


Eddie N. Moore, Jr., President, Virginia State University


Linwood H. Rose, President, James Madison University


Roseann Runte, President, Old Dominion University


Charles W. Steger, President, Virginia Tech


Timothy J. Sullivan, President, College of William & Mary


Eugene P. Trani, President, Virginia Commonwealth University


Paul S. Trible, President, Christopher Newport University


Individually, these presidents, superintendent and chancellor are extraordinarily successful men and women as even a glance at their biographies proves. Together, they are as smart and experienced and accomplished set of leaders and advisors as any Virginian could want.


President Anderson is a native of South Boston and an educator with service on the staff of the State Council of Higher Education in Virginia before becoming the youngest college president in Virginia in 1983. He is now the longest serving president.


Superintendent Bunting is a retired Lieutenant General of the Army, who helped VMI transition into a 21st century institute that provides an opportunity to serve to all Virginians.


Dr. Casteen, UVA president since 1992, grew up in Portsmouth, was Virginia's Secretary of Education in the 1980s, is a widely published author and served previously as president of the University of Connecticut.


Dr. Cormier, Longwood president since 1996, is an expert in oral health and dental education with a Ph.D. from UVa.


Dr. Covington, Radford president since 1995, brings expertise in psychology and special education and experience as president of Cheyney University in Pennsylvania.


Chancellor Kaplan, who came to the College at Wise this year, has published works in English and in German, the result of masters and doctoral degrees from Eberhard Karl University in Tubingen.


Dr. McDemmond, NSU president since 1997, brings educational management experiences built at Xavier, New Orleans, Massachusetts, Florida Atlantic, Atlanta and Emory.


Dr. Merton, GMU president since 1996, has degrees in mathematics and computer science and headed a national commission on technology workforce needs.


President Moore is an accountant and former corporate executive who has served as Treasurer of the Commonwealth and in the U.S. Army.


Dr. Rose studied economics and higher education management, is a member of the National Infrastructure Advisory Committee and was Deputy Secretary of Education in the 1980s.


Dr. Runte, ODU president since 2001, is a writer and poet with a Ph.D. in French and service as president of Victoria University in Toronto.


Dr. Steger is an architect with the long-term vision that discipline requires, and an extraordinary commitment, as his Virginia Tech history as student, faculty, academic department head, college dean and vice president illustrate.


Dr. Sullivan, W&M president since 1992, weaves experiences from the law, the Army Signal Corps and a gubernatorial assistant for policy.


Dr. Trani, VCU president since 1990, is a former history professor who has changed the landscape of Richmond through the expansion of VCU and the Medical College of Virginia.


Trible, CNU president since 1996, is a former United States Senator, U.S. Representative and county prosecutor.


Presidents, poets and practitioners, these leaders of the senior colleges and universities have kept the best of the Commonwealth burning bright in a difficult year. But there is something even more important that Virginia has charged them with doing.


Without a conscious policy decision, but with the myopia brought on by budget politics, the Commonwealth has set out on the road to privatize its public institutions of higher education. Quietly, these 13 presidents, a superintendent and a chancellor are managing the transition of Virginia's four-year colleges and universities from state schools to state-supported schools to state-assisted schools.


The penury of the General Assembly forces these women and men to draw ever more heavily on the resources of their students, their alumni and their research partners and on the forbearance of their faculties and staffs to work without salary increases to extend Virginia's record of excellence. Virginians are left applauding politely the news that no further cuts in college and university operating budgets are proposed for the time being.


Fortunately for the institutions, for the Commonwealth and for Virginians, the value and quality of these state-assisted four-year colleges and universities are firmly established with private groups, who are willing to invest more. Still, it will be the great tragedy of the knowledge age to leave these senior colleges and universities with little more than the same tuition assistance grants Virginia students bring with them when attending private colleges and universities. 13 presidents, a superintendent and a chancellor are proof Virginia can and is ready to do better.


-- Jan. 6, 2003



















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