MAKOLA M. ABDULLAH
PRESIDENT, VIRGINIA STATE UNIVERSITY, ETTRICK
While many college presidents enjoy basketball, few have Abdullah’s moves. In March, a video of him tying up an opponent went viral, receiving millions of views and appearing on ESPN’s “SportsCenter.”
Abdullah has overseen dramatic turnarounds at Virginia State University since he became its 14th president in 2016.
Prior to his tenure, VSU was running a $19 million deficit and was put on academic warning by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). Now VSU is on better financial footing and fully accredited by SACSCOC.
In 2018, Virginia State was named HBCU of the Year by HBCU Digest, which also named Abdullah its 2017 HBCU Male President of the Year.
Abdullah has overseen the establishment of an advisory board for LGBTQIA+ inclusion and implemented a 2020-2025 strategic plan. Last year, billionaire philanthropist MacKenzie Scott donated $30 million to the university, its largest-ever single-donor gift.
FIRST JOB: When I was 13 years old, I was a counselor for mentally challenged young people. It was a lot of fun and great to feel as though I was making a difference in someone’s life.
PRESIDENT, NORFOLK STATE UNIVERSITY, NORFOLK
A Washington, D.C., native, Adams-Gaston took the helm of Norfolk State University, a public, historically Black institution, in 2019. Since then, the school has secured more than $7 million in public and private partnerships, including with Apple Inc., Netflix Inc., Amazon.com Inc., Bank of America Corp. and Dominion Energy Inc. Additionally, the 5,457-student school has opened its NSU Innovation Center, a business incubator aimed at helping the school establish job and training pipelines in Hampton Roads.
Previously, as senior vice president for student life at The Ohio State University, Adams-Gaston dramatically increased student-organization activities, expanded the school’s campus living focus and implemented the national Second-Year Transformational Experience (STEP) program. She also helped the university raise $29 million toward an advanced student affairs development program and assisted in some of the school’s biggest construction projects.
NSU is part of the Virginia College Affordability Network, which provides free tuition and academic enrichment for Pell Grant-eligible students from Hampton Roads. The university, which employs 1,558 workers and 248 full-time faculty members, is also looking to expand its NSU Preschool Academy, a full- and part-time early childhood education and care program.
Adams-Gaston serves on the Hampton Roads Chamber Board of Directors.
JONATHAN R. ALGER
PRESIDENT, JAMES MADISON UNIVERSITY, HARRISONBURG
In a year when many institutions were adversely impacted by the pandemic, JMU, under the leadership of Alger, the university’s sixth president, partnered with the Harrisonburg community on a Stop the Spread campaign and aided in local vaccine administration. The school also renamed three campus buildings that had honored Confederates.
Hired in 2012, Alger had previously served as senior vice president and general counsel at Rutgers University and as assistant general counsel for the University of Michigan, where he was a key adviser in two successful U.S. Supreme Court cases on diversity in college admissions.
His key initiatives include JMU’s Valley Scholars program, which offers full scholarships to first-generation Shenandoah Valley college students from low-income backgrounds.
He also has overseen major expansions, as well as the school’s $200 million Unleashed fundraising campaign, which reached its goal nearly a year and a half early. During the last year, JMU opened its 8,500-seat Atlantic Union Bank Center arena, the $72.1 million College of Business building and its new Dukes Dining Hall.
Alger received his bachelor’s degree in political science with a minor in history at Swarthmore College and earned his law degree from Harvard Law School.
DIRECTOR, STATE COUNCIL OF HIGHER EDUCATION FOR VIRGINIA, RICHMOND
As the state’s point man for higher education, Blake worked during the pandemic to help institutions address issues related to COVID-19 prevention, testing and mitigation. He also helped develop Pathways to Opportunity, a statewide strategic plan for increasing access to higher education, making it more equitable and affordable. Additionally, the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia entered into a partnership with the Virginia Chamber of Commerce to create the Virginia Talent + Opportunity Partnership internship program.
Blake has worked in higher education for 30 years, starting as a research analyst at SCHEV. He subsequently became a legislative analyst for the Virginia House Appropriations Committee, before serving as the state’s deputy secretary of education from 2002 to 2005 and secretary of education from 2005 to 2006. Blake was then vice chancellor for workforce development services for the Virginia Community College System before returning to SCHEV as interim director in 2011. He became director the following year. Blake serves on the boards of Lead Virginia and the Richmond Public Library Foundation.
HOBBY/PASSION: In the last several years, I have become more interested in walking and hiking, and have a reputation of forcing friends and family to get outside.
LANCE R. COLLINS
VICE PRESIDENT AND EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, VIRGINIA TECH INNOVATION CAMPUS, ALEXANDRIA
Since Collins became vice president and executive director of the Virginia Tech Innovation Campus in August 2020, a number of milestones have been achieved. A strategic plan for the $1 billion campus — currently being built out in Alexandria — has been developed for graduate education in computer science and computer engineering. In May, The Boeing Co. was named the campus’s first foundational partner, with a $50 million, multiyear commitment.
The inaugural Innovation Campus class — about 75 students based in the Washington, D.C., region pursuing master’s degrees in computer science and computer engineering — started in fall 2020; the campus’s first academic building, an 11-story, 300,000-square-foot structure, is scheduled to open in 2024.
During the pandemic, Collins mobilized alumni and students to build more than 70 custom desks for local low-income children doing virtual schooling. He also collaborated with Manumission Tour Co. to help inform students, staff and alumni about the contributions of African Americans in Alexandria. Collins serves on the board of trustees for the American Institute of Chemical Engineers Foundation and The Mitre Corp., as well as the advisory boards of the engineering colleges of the University of Delaware and the University of Michigan.
CHANCELLOR, VIRGINIA COMMUNITY COLLEGE SYSTEM, RICHMOND
The longest-serving chancellor in the Virginia Community College System’s 55-year history, DuBois is himself a community college graduate who has led the organization since 2001, seeing it through three strategic plans and into its fourth, Opportunity 2027.
In August, DuBois announced he plans to retire in June 2022, after having built the college system into the state’s leading provider of workforce training.
In addition to helping community colleges navigate the pandemic, DuBois played an integral role in establishing Gov. Ralph Northam’s G3 (Get a Skill. Get a Job. Get Ahead.) program, which helps fully pay tuition for low- and moderate-income Virginians pursuing degrees in high-demand fields. In May 2020, DuBois announced the launch of CollegeAnywhereVA.org, an online portal connecting students with affordable online courses and advisers who can streamline application and course enrollment processes.
DuBois is a supporter of the Virginia Foundation for Community College Education, which he founded. He also founded the Great Expectations program for foster youth through the foundation. He sits on the boards of VFCCE, Rebuilding America’s Middle Class, Virginia529 and the Virginia Space Grant Consortium. Virginia’s 23 community colleges employ roughly 18,000 faculty and staff members each year, serving a combined 250,000 individuals.
PRESIDENT, SHENANDOAH UNIVERSITY, WINCHESTER
As Shenandoah University’s 16th president, Fitzsimmons leads an institution of 4,200 students and 900 faculty and staff at its 129-acre campus in Winchester, as well as sites in Clarke, Fairfax and Loudoun counties.
During the pandemic, SU saw its highest enrollment ever, continued in-person instruction uninterrupted and experienced no layoffs, furloughs or salary cuts. The university’s pharmacy school developed a COVID-19 saliva test to randomly sample asymptomatic students, and the pharmacy faculty sequenced samples to identify variants. The school also hosted a mass vaccination site, providing more than 70,000 shots.
Fitzsimmons serves on the boards of Shenandoah Telecommunications Inc. and GO Virginia’s Region 8 council. She is a past president of the Old Dominion Athletic Conference, past chair of the Council of Independent Colleges in Virginia and past president of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities. She also serves on the boards of the Loudoun Education Foundation and Blue Ridge Region BB&T Bank.
Fitzsimmons graduated magna cum laude from Princeton University, earning a bachelor’s degree in politics. She also earned master’s and doctoral degrees from Stanford University in Latin American studies and political science, respectively.
KEVIN F. HALLOCK
PRESIDENT, UNIVERSITY OF RICHMOND, RICHMOND
An economist and compensation and labor market scholar, Hallock took the helm at UR on Aug. 15, 2021.
His leadership of the university comes on the heels of a pandemic year that also saw controversy erupt after the UR board of trustees decided in February and March to retain the names of two buildings named for historical figures who had enslaved people and supported racial segregation. Following an uproar, the board announced in April it would “suspend” its decision. Hallock’s predecessor, Ronald A. Crutcher, the school’s first Black president, had spoken in favor of the board’s initial decision.
Prior to joining UR, Hallock served as the dean of Cornell University’s SC Johnson College of Business. During his time at Cornell, he also chaired the Department of Economics in the College of Arts and Sciences and in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations.
Hallock graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and earned his master’s degree and doctorate in economics from Princeton University.
WILLIAM R. HARVEY
PRESIDENT, HAMPTON UNIVERSITY, HAMPTON
In the world of academia, few presidents have had the longevity of Harvey, who has served since 1978 as president of Hampton University, a historically Black school founded in 1868 to provide education to freedmen. In December 2020, the university announced that Harvey would retire in June 2022 after more than four decades as president. He is the eighth longest-serving university president currently serving in the United States and the 28th longest-serving in U.S. history.
During his tenure, Hampton has launched 92 academic degrees, added 29 buildings to its campus and grown its endowment from $29 million to more than $300 million. In July 2020, the university received its largest-ever donation, a $30 million gift from philanthropist MacKenzie Scott, ex-wife of Amazon.com Inc. founder and Executive Chairman Jeff Bezos.
The president and full owner of the Pepsi Cola Bottling Co. of Houghton, Michigan, Harvey has said he would like to explore developing a slavery museum after retirement.
He and his wife, Norma, have donated more than $8.5 million to the university. Its William R. Harvey Leadership Institute bears his name, the main thoroughfare through the 314-acre campus is William Harvey Way and the library is named for the Harveys.
BRIAN O. HEMPHILL
PRESIDENT, OLD DOMINION UNIVERSITY, NORFOLK
In February, Old Dominion University announced that Radford University President Brian Hemphill had been selected as ODU’s ninth president, succeeding John Broderick, the university’s president of 13 years.
Hemphill, who has led Radford since 2016, takes the helm as ODU is partnering with Norfolk State University to develop a regional School of Public Health.
It’s something he definitely knows about. In 2019, Hemphill negotiated a merger with the Jefferson College of Health Sciences and a partnership with Roanoke-based Carilion Clinic to create Radford University Carilion. Radford’s nursing program is now the second largest in Virginia.
During Hemphill’s tenure, Radford also received its largest-ever individual and alumni gifts, while growing its endowment by $20 million. Radford also saw its total enrollment reach a record 11,870 students in fall 2019, and the school received $101 million in state funding for the largest capital project in Radford history, its Artis Center for Adaptive Innovation and Creativity.
Before joining Radford, Hemphill was president of West Virginia State University. He received his doctorate in higher education administration and policy studies from the University of Iowa.
DONNA PRICE HENRY
CHANCELLOR, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA’S COLLEGE AT WISE, WISE
Since becoming U.Va. Wise’s chancellor in 2013, Henry has launched the school’s $100 million Honor the Future fundraising campaign and its strategic plan for 2030.
In fall 2019, she implemented innovate2eleVAte, a program that provided iPads, smart pencils and keyboards to students and faculty. That made it easier for the school to transition to online classes amid the pandemic.
Also a professor of biology at U.Va. Wise, Henry earned her bachelor’s degree in biological basis of behavior, with a minor in Spanish, from the University of Pennsylvania, and she earned her doctorate in physiology from Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia.
Henry serves on the boards of the Virginia Business Higher Education Council and the Southwest Virginia Public Education Consortium. She is also on the leadership council for the nonprofit STRONG Accountable Care Community, which works to improve overall health in the region.
She and her husband, Allen, a pilot for FedEx Corp., are the parents of adult twin daughters.
BEVERAGE OF CHOICE: Wine. My husband and I enjoy good food and wine. When we travel, we seek out interesting restaurants to try new things. Wine paired with food makes the meal more enjoyable.
ANNE M. KRESS
PRESIDENT, NORTHERN VIRGINIA COMMUNITY COLLEGE, ANNANDALE
Not many people can describe themselves as the first lady of the United States’ boss, but Kress can.
First lady Jill Biden has been an English professor at NOVA since 2009, when Joe Biden was vice president. She took a break during the campaign and transition to the White House but has returned to her teaching post, making her the only first lady to hold an outside job during her husband’s presidency.
In addition to her connection to Biden, Kress is probably best known for supporting workforce development. Since becoming NOVA’s sixth president in January 2020, Kress and the college have assisted Gov. Ralph Northam’s G3 (Get Skilled, Get a Job, Give Back) workforce development initiative, helped launch the Taskforce on Higher Education and Opportunity and received a $1 million grant from the Bank of America Corp. for job skills training support for students of color.
Kress serves on the board of the American Association of Community Colleges and the executive committee of the Taskforce on Higher Education and Opportunity.
She holds a doctorate in higher education administration from the University of Florida.
JAMES F. LANE
SUPERINTENDENT OF PUBLIC EDUCATION, VIRGINIA DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION, RICHMOND
Appointed Virginia’s public education czar in 2018, Lane guided the state’s 1,860 public schools through the challenges of the pandemic.
He helped expand virtual instruction throughout the state, delivering guidance on safely reopening schools to in-person instruction and managing $3 billion in federal pandemic relief funding. He also served as co-chairman of the Southern Regional Education Board’s K-12 Education Recovery Task Force, providing reopening guidance to 16 member states.
Lane worked with the Virginia Board of Education this past year to update the state’s curriculum to reflect recommendations issued by Gov. Ralph Northam’s African American History Education Commission. He also supported the board as it updated teacher evaluation standards to include cultural competency in response to General Assembly legislation.
In May 2021, Lane testified at a federal House Education and Labor subcommittee hearing on the impact of COVID-19 on students experiencing homelessness and children in foster care. Lane also is overseeing the mandated expansion of VDOE to include responsibility for state and state-funded early childhood education programs.
Lane previously served as school superintendent in Chesterfield, Middlesex and Goochland counties; he was Virginia Superintendent of the Year in 2017.
PRESIDENT AND CEO, STRATEGIC EDUCATION INC., ARLINGTON
As the head of SEI, an education services holding company that includes the for-profit Strayer University and Capella University, McDonnell has focused this past year on introducing new affordability programs such as no-cost general education courses for students through the company’s Sophia Learning division.
SEI also launched its Workforce Edge platform to serve as a one-stop shop for employers looking to administer their tuition assistance benefit programs. Additionally, SEI began a new chapter by acquiring Australia/New Zealand-based Torrens University Australia, Think Education and Media Design School.
After first coming to SEI in 2006 as its chief operating officer, McDonnell joined its board of directors in 2011 and was named president and CEO in 2013. Previously, McDonnell served as chief operating officer of InteliStaf Healthcare Inc., one of the nation’s largest privately held health care staffing firms. He also served as vice president of the investment banking division at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. McDonnell has held senior management positions with several Fortune 100 companies, including The Walt Disney Co.
McDonnell is a graduate of Virginia Wesleyan College and Duke University, and he previously served as president and CEO of Strayer.
TROY D. PAINO
PRESIDENT, UNIVERSITY OF MARY WASHINGTON, FREDERICKSBURG
Following a six-year stint as president of Missouri’s Truman State University, Paino took office in 2016 as UMW’s 10th president. Since then, he has concentrated on student and faculty diversity, creating a cabinet position in charge of equity and access, and increasing opportunities for minority and nontraditional learners.
Paino has also worked to put UMW on a firmer financial footing, overseeing the renovation of many buildings and the school’s amphitheater. Two of the school’s original residence halls have been brought up to 21st-century standards, and the former dining hall is being transformed into the new home for UMW’s College of Education.
During the height of the pandemic, UMW was among the state institutions with the lowest number of COVID-19 cases.
Paino earned master’s and doctoral degrees in American studies from Michigan State University. He holds a law degree from Indiana University and a bachelor’s degree in history and philosophy from what is now Evangel University.
He is a member of the Association of American Colleges and Universities’ Presidents’ Trust, a past president of the Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges and a member of the NCAA Division III Presidents Council.
PRESIDENT, LIBERTY UNIVERSITY, LYNCHBURG
Formerly the chairman of Liberty’s board of trustees, Prevo became the interim president of Virginia’s largest school by enrollment in August 2020, following the high-profile series of scandals that led to the resignation of Jerry Falwell Jr., Liberty’s former president and chancellor, whom the university is suing for breach of contract.
Since then, Liberty, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, has dropped the “interim” when describing Prevo, president of one of the world’s largest Christian universities and the nation’s second largest online university.
Prevo also inherited some problems. In July, 12 women filed a lawsuit against Liberty, saying the school’s previous leaders created an environment that put them at higher risk of sexual assault and rape.
Prior to leading Liberty, Prevo was the founder and senior pastor of Alaska’s most influential Baptist church, Anchorage Baptist Temple, for nearly 50 years. A prominent evangelist and entrepreneur, Prevo has received criticism from the LGBTQ community for positions he’s taken in past years opposing gay rights.
Prevo hired former Anchorage Baptist pastor Glenn Clary, who also chaired the Alaska Republican Party, as Liberty’s vice president of strategic partnerships and alliances, a newly created position.
A Tennessee native and a University of Tennessee graduate, Prevo is also chairman and CEO of Christian Broadcasting Inc., which runs TV and radio stations in Alaska.
SECRETARY OF EDUCATION, COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA, RICHMOND
As the state’s education secretary, Qarni assembled a work group last year to align education policies and develop recovery plans in response to the pandemic. Qarni and his office also worked with the state departments of health and education to provide guidance to school divisions, which were forced to close in March 2020.
This fall, most students are expected to return in person to public schools. In May, Gov. Ralph Northam announced $62.7 million in Virginia LEARNS Education Recovery grants to help fund school division initiatives to address learning deficits. Qarni and his office have also taken steps to address systemic inequities, including directing federal emergency funding to expand pre-K in 2020.
Appointed in 2018, Qarni hails from Pakistan and holds a bachelor’s degree in sociology from George Washington University and a master’s in history from George Mason University. He was deployed to Iraq in 2003 during Operation Iraqi Freedom as a U.S. Marine Corps sergeant.
FAVORITE SPORTS TEAM: Baltimore Ravens
FIRST JOB: I went door to door to sell subscriptions for The Baltimore Sun and worked at Pizza Boli’s when I was growing up.
PRESIDENT, VIRGINIA COMMONWEALTH UNIVERSITY, RICHMOND
One of Virginia’s highest-paid state officials, earning $1.1 million in 2019, Rao heads the largest employer in the Richmond area.
Since coming to VCU in 2009 from Central Michigan University — where he also served as president — Rao has overseen the addition of more than 5.3 million square feet to the university, including the construction of a $158.6 million medical education center, a $50.8 million renovation of Cabell Library and the 2018 opening of the $41 million Institute for Contemporary Art.
Rao also oversees the VCU Health System, which has a $325 million expansion in the works.
In July, VCU launched a six-year plan to develop its research enterprise priorities, pledging $10 million in research funding for the first two years. The university received one of its largest gifts in December 2020, $24 million from the C. Kenneth and Dianne Wright Foundation, spread among engineering, clinical research and the VCU Health Adult Outpatient Pavilion.
Rao is chair of the Virginia Bio+Tech Partnership Authority, as well as a senior advisory board member of the Northern Virginia Technology Council and vice chair for the American Council on Education.
M.G. ‘PAT’ ROBERTSON
CHANCELLOR AND CEO, REGENT UNIVERSITY, VIRGINIA BEACH
A native of Lexington, Robertson is a 91-year-old televangelist best known for his Christian Broadcasting Network show “The 700 Club” and his Republican political influence.
In 1977, Robertson founded CBN University on the Virginia Beach campus of his television network. Now known as Regent, the university employs more than 1,500 people and teaches more than 11,000 students online and on campus. Referred to as the “Harvard of the Christian Right,” Regent has produced alumni such as former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, “Arrested Development” and “Veep” actor Tony Hale and radio host Jay Sekulow, who served as lead outside counsel for former President Donald Trump’s first impeachment trial.
During the pandemic, Regent froze tuition, increased online courses and developed a series of webinars to help families navigate the challenges posed by COVID-19. Regent nurses administered vaccines to the community, and the school’s Psychological Services Center provided counseling and therapy.
Long a controversial figure, Robertson weighed in on the controversy surrounding critical race theory in June 2021, calling it a “monstrous evil” that encourages Black people to hold “the whip handle” over white people. However, the Trump supporter acknowledged the president’s loss of the 2020 election in December, well before many other prominent conservatives did.
KATHERINE A. ROWE
PRESIDENT, WILLIAM & MARY, WILLIAMSBURG
The former provost and dean of faculty at Smith College in Massachusetts, Rowe became president of William & Mary in 2018. Under her leadership, the “public ivy” has undertaken initiatives that include an entrepreneurship hub, a teaching innovation studio, a long-range sustainability plan and efforts to increase diversity and inclusion.
During the pandemic, Rowe dealt with a revenue drop-off caused by the shift to remote learning. Though the college successfully moved 2,000 courses online in just 10 days, it also initiated a hiring freeze and cleaved $17 million from its budget. Rowe took a 15% salary cut. At the same time, 2020 saw the school raise $149.9 million — its highest-ever annual fundraiser — and complete a decadelong $1.04 billion fundraising campaign.
Beginning this fall, the university is offering full-tuition scholarships to 10 Virginia students from low-income backgrounds in partnership with New York nonprofit The Posse Foundation. W&M also launched a program for veterans with a $10 million anonymous donation last year.
Rowe, who holds degrees from Harvard University and Carleton College, is co-founder and former CEO of Luminary Digital Media and serves on the boards of the Northern Virginia Technology Council and the Virginia Space Grant Consortium.
JAMES E. RYAN
PRESIDENT, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA, CHARLOTTESVILLE
A first-generation college student, Ryan came to U.Va. in 2018 with an extraordinary resume. He previously served as dean of Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, graduated summa cum laude from Yale University and earned his law degree from U.Va., graduating first in his class. He also clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist.
In his first year as president of U.Va., Ryan launched a $5 billion capital fundraising campaign and helped raise $850 million. When the pandemic struck, he led a shift to remote work for employees and sent students home. Ryan and his team oversaw the development of resources to adapt to the new paradigm, led a team of medical experts to install COVID-19 testing sites and partnered with health officials to establish vaccination sites.
The pandemic, which caused financial losses for most universities, led to staff furloughs and hourly reductions at U.Va., as well as salary cuts for Ryan and other officials. However, the university also brought in some of its biggest donations in the past year, including a $50 million gift announced in June from alumni Martha and Bruce Karsh to start the nonpartisan Karsh Institute of Democracy.
TIMOTHY ‘TIM’ SANDS
PRESIDENT, VIRGINIA TECH, BLACKSBURG
A celebrated scientist and expert in the field of light-emitting diodes, Sands came to Virginia Tech in 2014 from Purdue University, where he served as acting president, executive vice president and provost.
Progress is underway on the forthcoming $1 billion Virginia Tech Innovation Campus in Alexandria. In late 2020, Tech alumni Mehul and Hema Sanghani made a $10 million gift to the university, $7.4 million of which will support the Sanghani Center for Artificial Intelligence and Data Analytics set to open in Alexandria in 2024.
In May, aerospace and defense contractor Boeing made a record $50 million, multiyear commitment to back scholarships, recruit faculty and researchers, and fund K-12 pathway programs at the Innovation Campus. Boeing’s gift tied the university’s previous largest donation made in 2019 by the Fralin family, supporting the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC. Sands called the Boeing gift “a milestone moment” that will propel the Washington, D.C., area toward becoming “the world’s next major tech hub.”
Sands, who earned engineering and physics degrees from the University of California at Berkeley, chairs the Virginia Space Grant Consortium and serves on other boards.
PRESIDENT, GEORGE MASON UNIVERSITY, FAIRFAX
In taking the reins at George Mason in July 2020, Washington arrived at one of the most challenging times for any institution — in the midst of a worldwide pandemic. However, under his leadership, the state’s largest four-year public university recorded no significant outbreaks, and its enrollment increased by 2.1%.
A first-generation college student and the university’s first Black president, Washington previously was dean of the University of California, Irvine’s Henry Samueli School of Engineering. He earned his degrees in mechanical engineering from North Carolina State University.
On tap for next spring is the construction of a $168 million expansion of Mason’s Arlington campus near Amazon.com Inc.’s HQ2 headquarters. The 360,500-square-foot research, learning and business center is central to the state’s Tech Talent Investment Program, under which GMU has pledged to produce 2,277 additional bachelor’s and 5,328 master’s graduates in computer science and engineering during the next 20 years.
In February, Washington formed an advisory panel of nearly 30 regional business executives and community leaders to guide GMU’s innovation initiative.
FIRST JOB: My first job was working on a construction site as a laborer. I mixed cement in a wheelbarrow and loaded and carried bricks to the brick masons.
MAJ. GEN. CEDRIC T. WINS (U.S. ARMY, RET.)
SUPERINTENDENT, VIRGINIA MILITARY INSTITUTE, LEXINGTON
It’s been a rocky year for VMI. After current and former Black cadets spoke to reporters about alleged racist behavior at the military college last year, Gov. Ralph Northam ordered a third-party investigation of VMI last fall. The retirement of the former superintendent, retired Army Gen. J.H. Binford Peay III, soon followed.
Wins, a 1985 alumnus, came in as VMI’s interim superintendent in November 2020, and he was appointed the school’s permanent leader this April.
In June, the state issued its report, finding that VMI fosters a culture of “silence, fear and intimidation” regarding racist acts and sexual assault and harassment. Northam blasted his 1981 alma mater, saying “institutional racism and sexism are present, tolerated and too often left unaddressed.”
VMI’s first Black superintendent, Wins issued an action plan that aims to address issues of diversity and inclusion and hired VMI’s first chief diversity officer. Northam said he will expect significant progress in coming months, warning, “VMI is an agency of state government, and we will hold it accountable.”
Wins previously held many leadership and staff assignments during his 34-year military career, including in the Army’s Headquarters Department and at the Joint Staff at the Pentagon.