MAKOLA M. ABDULLAH
PRESIDENT, VIRGINIA STATE UNIVERSITY, PETERSBURG
One of the state’s two land-grant universities, Virginia State was originally chartered in 1882 as the Virginia Normal and Collegiate Institute. From an initial class of 126, the Petersburg campus now has 4,385 undergraduate and graduate students.
Since arriving in 2016 from his role as provost and senior vice president of Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach, Florida, Abdullah has transformed the once-sleepy farm school into a full-service university. The curriculum at the HBCU (historically Black college and university) now ranges from computer science and bioengineering to managerial economics.
Among other initiatives, the Chicago native has overseen the opening of VSU’s Academic Center of Excellence, a resource stop for first-year students. Abdullah also established an advisory board for LGBTQIA+ inclusion.
VSU was named 2018 HBCU of the Year by HBCU Digest, which also designated Abdullah the 2017 Male President of the Year. He earned his undergraduate degree from Howard University and his master’s and doctoral degrees in civil engineering from Northwestern University, where he was the youngest African American to receive an engineering Ph.D.
PRESIDENT, NORFOLK STATE UNIVERSITY, NORFOLK
Adams-Gaston was hired last year, just in time to usher in the 5,616-student school’s new NSU Innovation Center (NSUIC), a business incubator designed to help the historically Black university establish job and training pipelines in the Hampton Roads area. Known as “Dr. J,” the Washington, D.C., native came to Norfolk State armed with experience in how to connect with students. As senior vice president for student life at Ohio State University, she expanded the school’s campus living focus, implementing the national Second-Year Transformational Experience (STEP) program and dramatically increased student organization activities. She also assisted in some of Ohio State’s biggest construction projects — such as a $350 million, 3,200 bed student housing area — and helped the university raise $29 million toward an advanced student affairs development program. Adams-Gaston is a graduate of the University of Dubuque. She holds a master’s degree in psychology from Dubuque, Iowa’s Loras College and her Ph.D. from Iowa State.
WHAT WOULD A COMPETITOR SAY ABOUT YOU? “She is a collaborator who works for the
FIRST JOB: Lifeguard
JONATHAN R. ALGER
PRESIDENT, JAMES MADISON UNIVERSITY, HARRISONBURG
At JMU, it’s a time for both growth and reflection. The school’s new $72.1 million College of Business building will open this fall, and the 8,500-seat Atlantic Union Bank Center is slated for 2021. At the same time, in June, Alger recommended to the board of visitors that JMU remove the names of Confederate leaders from three university halls.
Hired in 2012 as the sixth president in Madison’s 112-year history, Alger received his B.A. in political science with a minor in history at Swarthmore College and earned his law degree from Harvard. As assistant general counsel at the University of Michigan, he was a key adviser in two successful U.S. Supreme Court cases on diversity in college admissions.
In July, JMU’s College of Education announced it would partner with the Virginia Department of Education to form the Virginia New Teacher Support Program, providing coaching and professional development to 750 first- and second-year teachers. Alger also spearheaded JMU’s Valley Scholars program, which offers full scholarships to first-generation Shenandoah Valley college students from low-income backgrounds. The university partners with 22 middle and high schools and had 196 participating students last year.
DIRECTOR, STATE COUNCIL OF HIGHER EDUCATION FOR VIRGINIA, RICHMOND
Blake, the state’s point man for higher ed, is currently working to acclimate Virginia college students and faculty to the “new normal” of reopening this fall. That means more online courses, smaller class sizes, staggered schedules and new approaches to large-scale events. SCHEV will review each school’s reopening plan to make sure it complies with the state plan. Born in Cincinnati, Ohio, and still a big Reds fan, Blake came to SCHEV after serving as vice chancellor of the Virginia Community College System and spending four years as part of Gov. Mark Warner’s administration in the roles of deputy secretary and secretary of education. He was also a fiscal analyst for the Virginia House Appropriations Committee. Blake holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Virginia Commonwealth University and completed The Executive Program at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business.
BEST ADVICE: Say yes. If you say no, you might not be asked again.
I ADMIRE: My parents, Bill and Miriam Blake, for all the reasons you know.
RECENT BOOK: “The Big Fella,” by Jane Leavy
WHAT WOULD YOU CHANGE ABOUT VIRGINIA? Our tax structure needs to be modernized.
JOHN R. BRODERICK
PRESIDENT, OLD DOMINION UNIVERSITY, NORFOLK
Broderick announced in May that he would retire in 2021. With nearly 25,000 students, ODU has raised more than $1 billion in public and private dollars during his 13-year tenure, including a $37 million donation (the school’s largest ever) from Richard and Carolyn Barry for ODU’s Barry Art Museum. Broderick also oversaw construction of a $75.6 million chemistry building and the $20 million Student Success Center and Learning Commons. Football returned to the school, too, and the S.B. Ballard Stadium underwent a $67.5 million renovation.
He’s also helped to launch, among many other initiatives, the Commonwealth Center for Recurrent Flooding, the Center for Global Health and the Institute for Innovation & Entrepreneurship.
Broderick came to ODU in 1993 as the university’s public information director, later becoming associate vice president and acting vice president. He is the former chair of the Council of Presidents of the Southeastern Universities Research Association and is a past chairman of the Virginia Council of Presidents of public colleges and universities.
Retirement or not, he’ll always be a part of student life — the Broderick Dining Commons is named for him and his wife, Kate, honoring the couple’s commitment to inclusion and student success.
LANCE R. COLLINS
VICE PRESIDENT AND EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, VIRGINIA TECH INNOVATION CAMPUS, ALEXANDRIA
Collins started his new job in August, heading up Virginia Tech’s $1 billion Innovation Campus, currently underway in Alexandria, with its first academic building scheduled to open in 2024.
The first class of tech-savvy graduate students is slated to enroll this fall and will attend classes in other Northern Virginia spaces. Eventually, the campus, which was a key component in landing Amazon’s nearby $2.5 billion HQ2 East Coast headquarters, will house programs in computer science, artificial intelligence and data sciences for 2,000 students per year.
The campus will foster innovative partnerships with the tech industry and will include space for startups and corporate facilities.
Collins, who previously served as dean of engineering at Cornell University, was on the leadership team that successfully partnered with New York City to build Cornell Tech, which opened in 2017. He’s a graduate of Princeton University and earned his master’s degree and Ph.D. in chemical engineering from the University of Pennsylvania.
“We will build an education that integrates corporate America onto the campus in ways that you don’t see in a traditional campus,” Collins says.
RONALD A. CRUTCHER
PRESIDENT, UNIVERSITY OF RICHMOND, RICHMOND
In an April open letter to the student body, Crutcher compared his 4,023-pupil university’s COVID-19 shutdown to a fermata — an orchestral term denoting an unexpected pause before the music continues.
It’s only fitting that the Cincinnati native, a world-renowned musician who became the first cellist to receive a doctor of musical arts degree from Yale, would employ musical terminology to convey his message. The Fulbright scholar has performed recitals across the world and could be found streaming classical pieces on Facebook Live during the quarantine. Before he came to Richmond in 2015, Crutcher was president of Wheaton College for 10 years. He sits on the boards of the Association of American Colleges and Universities and the American Council on Education.
ODE TO JOY: “Ode to Joy” by Beethoven
NEW LIFE EXPERIENCE RECENTLY: Axe throwing. I really loved it!
I ADMIRE: My father, Andrew James Crutcher Jr. He was forced to quit school in the eighth grade to work on his family’s tobacco farm in Kentucky. … He eventually became the first Black manager at the world’s largest machine tool company.
WHAT I’VE LEARNED: As a leader, not to take myself too seriously and, in particular, how not to internalize or personalize criticism.
CHANCELLOR, VIRGINIA COMMUNITY COLLEGE SYSTEM, RICHMOND
DuBois has overseen the state’s 23 community colleges and 40-plus campuses for 19 years. Under his care, the colleges have become Virginia’s leading provider of workforce development services, while diversifying their funding approaches with more private investment. The colleges have also maintained a highly affordable tuition rate.
Considered an authority on the dynamics of community college education, DuBois raised eyebrows last year with his warnings that, by 2026, college enrollment will drop dramatically and schools will be competing so hard for students that it will feel like “The Hunger Games.”
His focus at present is on the safe reopening of Virginia colleges this fall, with new social distancing measures and remote classroom options in place.
DuBois announced in May that Virginia’s Community Colleges launched CollegeAnywhereVA.org, an online portal connecting students with affordable online courses and advisers who can streamline the application and course enrollment processes.
DuBois earned his doctorate in higher education administration from the University of Massachusetts and received his master’s in juvenile justice and criminology from Eastern Kentucky University. He holds a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Florida Atlantic University.
JERRY FALWELL JR.
PRESIDENT AND CHANCELLOR*, LIBERTY UNIVERSITY, LYNCHBURG
A controversial, conservative political icon, Falwell is one of Virginia’s top newsmakers. In August, he made headlines after taking an indefinite leave of absence from Liberty at the request of the Christian university’s board, whose chair is now acting president.
The move came following an Instagram photo Falwell posted showing his arm around a woman he said was his wife’s assistant. Their pants were unbuttoned and Falwell was holding a glass of dark liquid, which he wrote was “black water” and “a prop.” He later apologized in a radio interview, saying, “I promised my kids I will try to be a good boy from here on out.”
Falwell Jr. has built the university his father founded into one of the world’s largest Christian universities, with assets exceeding $3 billion. It’s also Lynchburg’s largest employer and Virginia’s largest college by enrollment, with more than 115,000 students, about 100,000 of whom are online-only.
This summer, several Black staff members and students left Liberty, citing racial insensitivity, including Falwell tweeting the infamous blackface image from Gov. Ralph Northam’s medical school yearbook. Before he took his leave, Falwell hired former Liberty football coach Turner Gill and 1986 alum and former NFL player Kelvin Edwards to lead diversity efforts at the university.
*Editor’s Note: When the Virginia 500 issue went to print, Jerry Falwell Jr. had taken indefinite leave from his leadership positions at Liberty University. Falwell resigned from Liberty on Aug. 24, amid mounting media reports of a scandal involving his wife’s extramarital affair with a former friend and business partner.
PRESIDENT, SHENANDOAH UNIVERSITY, WINCHESTER
Fitzsimmons became Shenandoah’s first female president in 2008 and oversees 4,000 students and 900 faculty and staff in Winchester with satellite campuses in Loudoun, Fairfax and Clarke counties. She originally served as Shenandoah’s dean of the College of Arts & Sciences, vice president for academic affairs and senior vice president. She earned her undergraduate degree in politics from Princeton and her master’s in Latin American studies and her doctoral degree in political science from Stanford. Like many schools, Shenandoah also is dealing with its checkered past. In June, the university’s board of trustees voted unanimously to remove the name of the late U.S. Sen. Harry F. Byrd Jr., a key Massive Resistance supporter, from its School of Business.
WHAT WOULD A COMPETITOR SAY ABOUT YOU? “She works hard to get to a ‘win-win’ for all
FIRST JOB? In high school, I worked the opening shift at a convenience store/gas station from 5:30 to 7:30 a.m.
FAVORITE VACATION DESTINATIONS Italy, Bhutan, Tanzania, Panama
FAVORITE SONG: “I Will Survive,” plus anything by Silvio Rodriguez
WILLIAM R. HARVEY
PRESIDENT, HAMPTON UNIVERSITY, HAMPTON
Harvey is one of the nation’s longest-serving university presidents, and arguably one its most successful. The 152-year-old historically Black private university — which will hold online-only classes this fall — has grown from 2,700 students to 6,100 since the Alabama native’s 1978 arrival. He’s upped the former Hampton Institute’s endowment from $29 million to $310 million and grown the academic offerings of Virginia’s oldest HBCU to more than 90 different degree programs, with eight doctoral programs. The university has added 28 campus buildings, and the $225 million Proton Therapy Institute for cancer treatment. The school also purchased the downtown Harbor Center, the area’s tallest building, and began a partnership with NASA.
Harvey and his wife, Norma, own a Pepsi Cola bottling franchise in Michigan, and the couple has donated $8.5 million to Hampton University over the years. Hampton’s 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.
Despite his successes, a Hampton alumni group circulated an online petition in June asking Harvey to step down, citing, among other things, the school’s slow response to COVID-19.
BRIAN O. HEMPHILL
PRESIDENT, RADFORD UNIVERSITY, RADFORD
In June, Radford’s board of visitors granted Hemphill broad powers to cut the university’s budget in anticipation of declining enrollment and a dramatic $8.1 million annual cut in state funding — the source of 40% of Radford’s educational dollars. The options look dire for the next two fiscal years, including salary and budgets cuts and programs and academic departments being consolidated or eliminated.
The situation has placed considerable pressure on Hemphill, who previously served as president of West Virginia State University.
Hemphill joined Radford in 2016. He received his bachelor’s degree from St. Augustine’s University and his master’s from Iowa State University. His Ph.D. is from the University of Iowa. Last year, Radford merged with Jefferson College of Health Sciences to establish the Roanoke-based Radford University Carilion (RUC), a health sciences educational center.
FIRST JOB: Working on a farm in rural North Carolina
I ADMIRE: My mother for her sense of humility, compassion and tenacity to persevere through challenging life situations
MOST RECENT BOOK READ: “College Unbound,” by Jeffrey J. Selingo
ANNE M. KRESS
PRESIDENT, NORTHERN VIRGINIA COMMUNITY COLLEGE, ANNANDALE
Kress took the reins at NOVA in January after serving for 10 years as president of Monroe Community College in Rochester, New York. Prior to that, she worked for two decades in various positions — from English instructor to associate vice president to provost — at Florida’s Santa Fe Community College. She sits on the board of directors of the American Association of Community Colleges and earned two bachelor’s degrees, a master’s and a doctorate from the University of Florida.
Founded in 1964, NOVA is the largest community college in Virginia, employing 3,500 staff and faculty. More than 75,000 students attend classes on campuses in six Northern Virginia localities, and through its never-more-important online Extended Learning Institute. Reacting to COVID-19 concerns, Kress announced in June that the college would mostly offer virtual learning this fall.
FIRST JOB: Babysitting (for 50 cents an hour!)
I ADMIRE: Malala Yousafzai. After an act of horrific violence, a young woman who simply wanted to attend school became an extraordinary global leader who continues to fight to ensure that all have access to the transformative power of education.
JAMES F. LANE
SUPERINTENDENT OF PUBLIC EDUCATION, VIRGINIA DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION, RICHMOND
The ongoing Black Lives Matter protests are sparking debates about racism and institutional white supremacy, but public education czar James Lane, appointed in 2018, has already been engaged in that discussion. Last February, the superintendent sent a strong message to local school divisions that racism would not be tolerated and in July he announced that Virginia is considering requiring K-12 teachers to receive teaching certificates in African American history.
Lane was previously a division superintendent in Chesterfield, Middlesex and Goochland counties — at the latter, he was recognized as the 2017 Virginia Superintendent of the Year by the Virginia Association of School Superintendents. As state superintendent, Lane assumes an executive officer role at the Virginia Department of Education and also serves as secretary of the Virginia Board of Education.
He was instrumental in developing Gov. Northam’s reopening schools plan, which was released in June.
In July, Lane announced that VDOE, along with James Madison University’s College of Education, would be initiating the Virginia New Teacher Support Program, which will provide coaching and professional development to more than 750 first- and second-year teachers across Virginia.
CEO, STRATEGIC EDUCATION INC., ARLINGTON
Online colleges Strayer University and Capella University are poised to make real inroads during the COVID-19 crisis. McDonnell oversees both for-profit companies as head of SEI, an education services holding company that, in the first quarter of this year, took in $46.5 million in profits.
Strayer and Capella merged in 2018 under SEI but remain separate entities with combined corporate governance. Collectively serving more than 80,000 web students, the schools still face questions about low graduation rates and students’ job preparedness. The Brookings Institution found that Strayer’s graduation rate ranged from 3% to 27% and many students were burdened with approximately $8 billion in loan debt, one of the nation’s highest rates. The New York Times reported that only 11% of Capella undergraduates earn a degree within eight years.
McDonnell, a graduate of Virginia Wesleyan College and Duke University, previously served as president and CEO of Strayer. Before that, he was COO of InteliStaf Healthcare and vice president of investment banking for Goldman Sachs & Co. For five years, McConnell was the general manager of Walt Disney World Resort. During his off time, he volunteers as a wedding photographer.
PRESIDENT, UNIVERSITY OF MARY WASHINGTON, FREDERICKSBURG
Paino came to Virginia in 2016 from Missouri’s Truman State University, where he served as president for six years. Since arriving at UMW, he’s concentrated on student and faculty diversity — creating a vice president position in charge of equity and access — as well as construction. Under his watch, Fredericksburg has seen the $3 million renovation of Mary Washington’s historic amphitheater, a $28 million expansion to Jepson Science Center, a $19.3 million renovation of Willard Hall and the establishment of Mary Washington’s Digital Pedagogy Lab.
Paino earned his doctorate and master’s degree in American studies from Michigan State University and holds a law degree from Indiana University.
WHAT I’VE LEARNED: Unless you are an arrogant S.O.B., life humbles us all.
I ADMIRE: Nelson Mandela — jailed for 26 years, yet could lead South Africa without bitterness or
revenge in his heart [and] led a racially divided country through a process of reconciliation.
NEW LIFE EXPERIENCE: Adapting a residential liberal arts university to meet the existential threat of the COVID-19 pandemic
FAVORITE SONG: “Speed of the Sound of Loneliness,” by John Prine
SECRETARY OF EDUCATION, COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA, RICHMOND
As education secretary, Qarni provides guidance to the Virginia Department of Education, the Virginia Community College System, the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, 16 public colleges and universities, 23 community colleges and five research centers, and offers support to seven state-funded arts/cultural institutions.
He helped to develop the state’s COVID-19 school reopening plan, released in June. He’s also charged with devising new guidelines to promote diversity. In the wake of this summer’s social justice protests, he announced that Virginia may soon require K-12 teachers to receive teaching certificates in African American history.
Appointed by Gov. Ralph Northam in 2018, the Pakistan native, whose family moved to Maryland when he was 10, has run for elected office twice, in unsuccessful bids for the Virginia House of Delegates in 2013 and the state Senate in 2015. He holds a bachelor’s degree in sociology from George Washington University as well as 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 and, earlier in life, taught civics, economics, math and history at Beville Middle School in Prince William County.
PRESIDENT, VIRGINIA COMMONWEALTH UNIVERSITY, RICHMOND
The highest-paid state official, making $1.02 million annually, Rao fronts a 30,000-student university that is the largest employer in the Richmond area, with more than 20,000 employees. He’s also president of VCU Health Services, which includes the VCU Medical Center, ranked as the No. 1 regional hospital by U.S. News & World Report.
Arriving in 2009 after serving as president of Central Michigan University, Rao has overseen the construction of the $158.6 million James W. and Frances G. McGlothlin Medical Education Center and a $50.8 million renovation of Cabell Library. In 2018, VCU opened the $41 million Institute for Contemporary Art, which was named in February as one of the top new museums in America by USA Today.
In June, Rao joined University of Virginia President James Ryan and Virginia Tech President Tim Sands in urging the state to set aside $200 million in federal relief to increase campus coronavirus testing. At the same time, despite an expected 10% admissions drop due to the pandemic, VCU’s board of visitors approved a $1.4 billion annual budget that avoided staff furloughs and kept tuition prices from rising.
Responding to social justice protests, Rao also announced a restructuring of VCU’s police force.
W. TAYLOR REVELEY IV
PRESIDENT, LONGWOOD UNIVERSITY, FARMVILLE
Reveley is a rarity: a third-generation college president. The Richmond native’s grandfather, W. Taylor Reveley II, was head of Hampden-Sydney College for 14 years, and his father, W. Taylor Reveley III, was president of William & Mary for a decade.
Reveley IV clearly inherited some aptitude for the job. Longwood has received more than $100 million in grants and donations since he came to the 5,096-student public liberal arts university. In 2019, Longwood received its largest-ever donation, a $15 million gift from alumna Joan Brock, which will go toward the construction of a new $40 million convocation and events center slated to open in 2022. In accordance with the school’s ambitious 2025 master plan, the school also renovated its iconic Frazer and Curry residence halls.
In April, Reveley announced that a new COVID-19 planning task force had been assembled from the campus community and Farmville to help Longwood reopen safely in the fall.
A graduate of Princeton University, where he played on the football team, Reveley also holds a master’s degree from Union Presbyterian Seminary and a law degree from the University of Virginia. He previously was managing director of U.Va.’s Miller Center of Public Affairs.
M.G. ‘PAT’ ROBERTSON
CHANCELLOR AND CEO, REGENT UNIVERSITY, VIRGINIA BEACH
Nonagenarian televangelist Robertson, a longtime player in Republican politics, is best known for his Christian Broadcasting Network show “The 700 Club,” but Regent has broad influence as well. Known as the “Harvard of the Christian Right,” it has a student enrollment of more than 8,600 and its alumni include former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, actor Tony Hale and radio host Jay Sekulow, who is also one of President Donald Trump’s lawyers.
The Lexington native originally founded Regent as CBN University in 1977 on his television network’s Virginia Beach campus. It has grown to include eight academic schools, offering associate, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in more than 70 study areas. Robertson established the Regent School of Law in 1986 and the university’s accreditation was reaffirmed last year by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Regent plans to reopen this fall with coronavirus-sensitive study options, including online courses, gap year alternatives and early college possibilities for high schoolers.
Robertson, whose “The 700 Club” TV show claims to reach 1 million viewers worldwide each weekday, has long been a controversial public figure, using his televangelism pulpit to denounce gay and lesbian people, Muslims, liberals and feminists.
KATHERINE A. ROWE
PRESIDENT, WILLIAM & MARY, WILLIAMSBURG
Discussing the university’s fall reopening plans, Rowe came across as a comforting voice of optimism during her June appearance on CBS’s “60 Minutes.”
Hired in 2018, the former Smith College provost and dean of faculty has already put her stamp on the 328-year-old university, America’s second-oldest learning institution.
A former entrepreneur who co-founded Luminary Digital Media and received her master’s and Ph.D. from Harvard, Rowe spearheaded an entrepreneurship hub next to the Miller Center at the Mason School of Business, partnering with Launchpad, the region’s business incubator, and James City and York counties.
William & Mary has already received some large gifts during Rowe’s tenure — a $10 million donation from alumna Jane P. Batten to expand online programs, a $19.3 million anonymous gift to establish the Institute for Integrative Conservation and the donation of alumna Sybil Shainwald’s prestigious art collection, including works by Picasso and Matisse.
BEST ADVICE: Cross-train
HOBBY: Playing and coaching the sport of Ultimate
FAVORITE SONG: “Feeling Good,” by Nina Simone
ONE THING YOU WOULD CHANGE ABOUT VIRGINIA: The humidity
JAMES E. RYAN
PRESIDENT, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA, CHARLOTTESVILLE
In December, the 24,000-student U.Va., founded in 1819 by Thomas Jefferson, kicked off the public phase of the largest-ever capital fundraising campaign by a Virginia university, with a goal of raising $5 billion by 2025. Ryan, who took the helm at U.Va. in 2018, is already more than halfway there.
In January, U.Va. received the largest single private donation in school history, a $120 million gift from alumni couple Jaffray and Merrill Woodriff to start a School of Data Science. And, in October 2019, Darden School alumnus David Walentas and his wife, Jane, gave $100 million to fund scholarships for first-generation students.
Previously dean of Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, Ryan graduated summa cum laude from Yale and earned his law degree from U.Va., graduating first in his class. He clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist.
There have, however, been some bumps in Ryan’s tenure: He was criticized for supporting the appointment of President Trump’s legislative affairs director, Marc Short, to U.Va.’s nonpartisan Miller Center for Public Affairs. (Short is now Vice President Pence’s chief of staff.) And a coalition of students was unhappy with Ryan’s initial response to Black Lives Matter protests, decrying violence by protesters.
TIMOTHY ‘TIM’ SANDS
PRESIDENT, VIRGINIA TECH, BLACKSBURG
On the job since 2014, Sands is still basking in the glow of Tech’s planned $1 billion Innovation Campus, which state officials have said sealed the deal in landing Amazon’s $2.5 billion HQ2 headquarters.
A celebrated scientist and expert in the field of light-emitting diodes, Sands oversees a university founded in 1872 that serves 34,850 students in 280 undergraduate and graduate degree programs and has a research portfolio of $522 million.
Sands earned his bachelor’s degree in engineering physics and his master’s and Ph.D. in material science and engineering from the University of California, Berkeley. He came to Blacksburg from Purdue University, where he served as acting president and executive vice president and provost and was director of Purdue’s Birck Nanotechnology Center.
Sands announced in June that Tech will blend in-person and online teaching this fall and make COVID-19 testing available to thousands of students in university housing. He also joined VCU’s Michael Rao and U.Va.’s James Ryan in urging the state to set aside $200 million in federal relief to increase testing on the state’s college campuses.
PRESIDENT, GEORGE MASON UNIVERSITY, FAIRFAX
With 38,255 students, GMU is Virginia’s largest four-year public university. It’s also the state’s most racially diverse and financially inclusive, as nearly a third of Mason students qualify for Pell Grants and 40% are first-generation college students.
It’s only fitting that Washington, who became the university’s eighth president in July, is the first African American to lead GMU, originally established in 1949 as a Northern Virginia satellite of the University of Virginia. He was also the first person in his family to attend college.
After earning his bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in mechanical engineering from North Carolina State University, Washington was a faculty member and then interim dean of Ohio State University’s engineering college. He then became dean of the Samueli School of Engineering at University of California, Irvine, where he was the first African American dean to lead a California state engineering school. Washington also helped Irvine land a $9.5 million donation for scholarships and established a STEM education outreach program. He also diversified the faculty, hiring more Black female instructors and staff and chaired the University of California’s UCI Task Force on Ensuring Positive Campus Climate for the African American Community.