Early Tuesday morning, new interim president, Carl Zeithaml, was chosen by the University of Virginia Board of Visitors. Soon after, he spoke to NBC29 for the first time about his new position and how he plans to approach the difficult situation he faces.
Zeithaml is spending Tuesday traveling from overseas back to the states. For the past 15 years, he has sat as the dean of the McIntire School of Commerce, but on August 16, he will officially become the interim president of UVA.
On the phone, he acknowledged that the university is facing a very difficult time, and speaking more personally, he said, "This will be the most daunting experience of my life. I hope not to have another one quite like this to be honest."
Zeithaml says he took the job for two reasons - the first, because he loves the UVA community and wants it to heal. "I want to see people come together and remember what we're trying to do is create a fabulous experience for our students to conduct great research, to take care of patients, to do all of the things that the university's mission involves."
Second, he says, because he wants to work with his colleagues to build on the work of President Teresa Sullivan and move forward.
He noted the necessity to retain and recruit faculty. "Great students come to the university in order to study with terrific faculty. So I really believe that my primary goal is going to be to build a faculty, continue to work with the deans, the department heads, and really focus on the faculty," he explained.
As the head of the school of commerce, Zeithaml highlighted Sullivan's work and support of McIntire during her short tenure. He stated, "She was very important in helping us secure... things that were different and new, and she worked closely with me and the entire faculty to try and retain the greatness of the school and make sure that we were able to move forward."
In the meantime, he said he was looking forward to getting started on his new position, "I look forward to meeting with faculty, staff, students, alumni, all friends of the university, community leaders, and working with them to get through this difficult time and then move forward in the best way that we possibly can."
Zeithaml wouldn't hint at his long term plans, other than to say that he would stay on the job until a new president was selected. But he did say that a national search is the right thing to do.
The last search to find Sullivan took about six months. Some sources say they expect Zeithaml to be in place for about a year. The board of visitors says he is the perfect choice because of his length of service and experience at UVA.
NBC29's Dannika Lewis contributed to this story.
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