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Teresa Sullivan to Step Down as President of UVA - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

Teresa Sullivan to Step Down as President of UVA

Posted: Updated: June 10, 2012 11:57 AM EDT

On Saturday, a campus-wide email sent by members of the executive committee of the University of Virginia's Board of Visitors announced the mutual agreement that President Teresa Sullivan would step down from her position effective August 15.

A press conference was held around 2:00 p.m., before the executive committee of the board of visitors met to make Sullivan's resignation official.    

At that meeting, three board of visitors members passed a resolution accepting President Teresa Sullivan's resignation.

At the press conference, held on grounds in front of Madison Hall,  UVA Rector Helen Dragas gave little information regarding the decision.  Joining Dragas was Vice Rector Mark Kington and member of the executive committee Hunter Craig.

All have the executive authority to accept President Teresa Sullivan's resignation from the University of Virginia.

Dragas thanked Sullivan for her service, but she said the school needs to keep moving forward.

"We had a philosophical difference about the vision of the future of the university, we are living in a time of rapidly accelerating change in both academia as well as in health care - two areas in which we operate large enterprises" said Dragas.

Although she would not comment on specific issues, in a statement to the vice president and the deans, she mentioned financial problems, faculty compensation, and integrating health care at the University of Virginia.

In addition, Dragas told the vice president and deans, "To achieve these aspirations, the Board feels the need for a bold leader who can help develop, articulate, and implement a concrete and achievable strategic plan to re-elevate the University to its highest potential."

Dragas continued, "The Board believes this environment calls for a much faster pace of change in administrative structure, in governance, in financial resource development and in resource prioritization and allocation. We do not believe we can even maintain our current standard under a model of incremental, marginal change.  The world is simply moving too fast."

NBC29 later learned from high level sources at the university, that within hours of the statement announcing the stepping down of Sullivan, she and her husband had received firm offers from four highly ranked institutions. Those four offers for high level administrative positions came from Duke University, University of Chicago, the University of Michigan, and the University of California at Berkley.

For those on grounds, news came as a shock to many in the community.

"I was pretty surprised at first because she's had such a short term. It just caught me off guard," said Sarah Arnold, a fourth year student at UVA.

Students like Arnold are left with more questions than answers on Sunday after receiving the campus-wide email alerting them that their president is stepping down.

"What's the specific reason? Was it just an issue with the board if it was something more than that?" asked Arnold. "We just don't know anything. We feel kind of in the dark."

Almost two-and-a-half years ago, on January 11, 2010, the board of visitors announced its unanimous decision to make Teresa Sullivan the eight president of the university, following the two-decade long tenure of John Casteen.

Arnold added, "knowing that Casteen had such a good run, it's not a letdown, but it's just disappointing to see that a woman comes in as president and doesn't stay as long as expected."

Sullivan is the first woman to hold the presidential post at UVA, but came to the university as no stranger to academia. She previously served as the provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at the University of Michigan, and lead academic affairs at the University of Texas system.

UVA hopes to have an interim president to take over Sullivan's position by August 15.


The NBC29 newsroom received the following email from members of the University of Virginia Board of Visitors:

June 10, 2012 

On behalf of the Board of Visitors, we are writing to tell you that the Board and President Teresa Sullivan today mutually agreed that she will step down as president of the University of Virginia effective August 15, 2012.  

We express our deep appreciation to President Sullivan for her effective stewardship of the University. She is a much respected educator, as well as a visible presence in the University community and a prominent voice in higher education.

President Sullivan commented on the great honor to serve as President of the University of Virginia.  She said, "Although the board and I have a philosophical difference of opinion, I will always treasure having had the opportunity to work with so many gifted faculty and staff, talented students, and loyal alumni. I am also grateful for the privilege to have worked with our extraordinary vice presidents and deans."

For the past year, the Board has had ongoing discussions about the importance of developing, articulating and acting on a clear and concrete strategic vision.  The Board believes that in the rapidly changing and highly pressurized external environment in both health care and in academia, the University needs to remain at the forefront of change.

We remain guided by Mr. Jefferson's inspirational vision:

"The great object of our aim from the beginning has been to make this Establishment the most eminent in the United States." 

In service to that vision, the Board is committed to preserving the legacy with which we have been entrusted.  At the core of that legacy is the quality and care of our faculty and staff. We have made a clear choice to act in the best interest of all concerned.  

We assure you that the Board of Visitors will move expeditiously to name an interim president and to begin a search for a new leader.  We hope you will assist us as we move through this time of change and strive for a smooth and productive transition.

On behalf of the Board of Visitors,

Helen E. Dragas, Rector
Mark Kington, Vice Rector 


Below are the remarks of Rector Helen Dragas to the Vice President of the University of Virginia and the Deans of the university: 

June 10, 2012

Thank you all for assembling here today in person and by phone.  I apologize for disrupting your weekend and appreciate your willingness to engage with us today.

The Vice Rector and I have called this meeting because we wanted you, as leaders of the University, to be the first to hear some very important news.  Yesterday the Board and President Sullivan agreed that she shall step down as President of the University on August 15th.  We intend to name an interim president expeditiously, and to install him or her before the students arrive back on Grounds. 

We know this news is a great shock to the institution. We deeply appreciate all that Terry has given to the University over the last two years. We like and respect Terry, and she has done many things well. Her broad engagement with all parts of the University community was refreshing to students, faculty, and staff, parents, and alumni.  Her increased presence in Washington and abroad was commendable.  Her administration's work with you on the initiation of the internal budget model has been a significant step towards creating an important tool for change.

Nevertheless, the Board feels strongly and overwhelmingly that we need bold and proactive leadership on tackling the difficult issues that we face. The pace of change in higher education and in health care has accelerated greatly in the last two years.  We have calls internally for resolution of tough financial issues that require hard decisions on resource allocation. The compensation of our valued faculty and staff has continued to decline in real terms, and we acknowledge the tremendous task ahead of making star hires to fill the many spots that will be vacated over the next few years as our eminent faculty members retire in great numbers. These challenges are truly an existential threat to the greatness of UVA.

We see no bright lights on the financial horizon as we face limits on tuition increases, an environment of declining federal support, state support that will be flat at best, and pressures on health care payers.  This means that as an institution, we have to be able to prioritize and reallocate the resources we do have, and that our best avenue for increasing resources will be through passionate articulation of a vision and effective development efforts to support it. We also believe that higher education is on the brink of a transformation now that online delivery has been legitimized by some of the elite institutions.

We want UVA to remain in that top echelon of universities well into the 21st century and beyond. We want this to be a place that lives up to Mr. Jefferson's founding vision of excellence. We want it to be a place that attracts the best and the brightest in scholarship, teaching, patient care, and community service.

To achieve these aspirations, the Board feels the need for a bold leader who can help develop, articulate, and implement a concrete and achievable strategic plan to re-elevate the University to its highest potential.  We need a leader with a great willingness to adapt the way we deliver our teaching, research, and patient care to the realities of the external environment.  We need a leader who is able to passionately convey a vision to our community, and effectively obtain gifts and buy-in towards our collective goals.

The Board believes this environment calls for a much faster pace of change in administrative structure, in governance, in financial resource development and in resource prioritization and allocation. We do not believe we can even maintain our current standard under a model of incremental, marginal change.  The world is simply moving too fast. 

We all have tremendous personal respect and affection for Terry, and appreciate the effort you have all put into making her presidency a success. We wanted it to work as well. That certainly would have been easier on all of us.

We will provide more details on the process and timing of the search for a new president in the coming weeks as those plans are further developed. In the meantime, we thank you for your continued loyalty to our UVA goals and values, which have endured for 193 years and which transcend any one individual.

The appropriate day of judgment on this decision will come at the time that a new president has been installed and given an opportunity to prove himself or herself as the leader the institution needs and deserves.

We deeply appreciate your intentional and united efforts to move us forward. 

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