Terry Sullivan Named as UVA President

The UVA Board of Visitors has named Teresa A. Sullivan the new president of the university. The sixty-year-old woman is currently the Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, where she’s been since 2006. From 1975-2006, she taught sociology in various capacities at the University of Texas at Austin, with four years in there spent teaching the same thing at the University of Chicago. Her particular expertise is on labor demography, a topic on which she’s published many papers. She has no prior connection to the university, making her the first such president of the school since the very first president, Edwin A. Alderman, who took office in 1904. 10:45 PM Update: Also, Bob O’Neill also had no prior connection.

There were a great many candidates whose names were bandied around in the past couple of days, some reasonable (e.g., Gene Block, Ed Ayers), some just bizarre (e.g., Condoleeza Rice). But “Terry Sullivan” was not a name that anybody uttered—nobody saw this coming. One note about today’s announcement: It came during the winter break, a time when students and teaching faculty are away from the university, on a day when even President Casteen is out of town. It’s an odd bit of timing, which may be coincidental, or it may have been deliberate.

President John Casteen will end his twenty-year run as president on July 31; Sullivan starts the next day.

Disclaimer: I work in the president’s office, but obviously I’m not writing here in that capacity.

22 Responses to “Terry Sullivan Named as UVA President”

  • Good luck to her. UVA sure knows how to keep a secret that is for sure. Shattered another ceiling at UVa – maybe the good old boys are smarter than we give’em credit for.

  • The last thing UVA needed to do was hire another “Virginia man.” This choice suggests the search committee actually listened to the feedback it got from its town hall meetings and web survey. Who’da thunk? The good ‘ol boys won’t be pleased, but many are cheering this choice.

  • I don’t think Bob O’Neill had a connection to UVA before he was hired as president in 1986.

  • You might be right, Pete. I’d read up on the histories of all of the presidents prior to writing this, and come to the conclusion that O’Neill had a prior connection, but now I can’t imagine what it was. I’ll have to return this after dinner. :)

  • Good luck to her. O’Neil came in as a fresh face with no UVa mud on his shoes and you saw how long he lasted. Old guarders ate his lunch.

    With Theresa’s background we might expect someone else to be put in charge of raising endowment money.
    Maybe Casteen would take it on again for a 10% commission. 10% of 300 billion or whatever the current target is may be hard to turn down.

    Is Sullivan married? Is she the first Catholic to head up UVa? What’s her track record on church/state?

    By choosing someone that old, 60, while the retiring Casteen is only 67 after 20 years in the job, what is the hiring committee’s long-term goal?

  • Sullivan is (boy that was easy to look up) married. How do you know she’s Catholic?

  • She was graduated from St Joseph Catholic High School,and she’s named after St. Theresa.

    That’s not proof, but just as the race does not always go to the swift, it’s the way to bet.

  • why would Condi Rice be a bizarre choice? Setting aside what I assume are obvious political differences, are you contending she doesn’t have the professional and academic qualifiers? She did serve as Provost at Stanford.

  • I think we can read the minds of the presidential search committee.

    They chose a 60-year-old woman in 2010 because when she’s ready to retire, if all goes as expected Barack Obama will have completed his 2nd term and might be induced to end his public service career in the shadow of Monticello.

    My daddy used to say University leadership is like billiards. The quality of your shot is half the job, positioning yourself for the next shot is the other half.

  • Miss Manners, I think you mean she shares a name with St. Theresa (though she spells it Teresa), because I doubt you know that she was named for St. Theresa. She may have gone to a Catholic high school, but she graduate from no Catholic universities and has worked for no Catholic universities.

    Me, I like what this hire says about the BOV and how they’re thinking about UVa. To me, it says they see UVa not foremost as Mr. Jefferson’s Very Special Place That You’d Have to Have Attended To Understand, but as a nationally prominent public institution on a par with, hey! the U of Michigan and U of Texas. They see serious athletics as mattering. They see a president’s job as more than just fundraising. Honestly, to me it seems like a very grown-up choice. I know lots of folks were rooting for Ed Ayers, and I think Ed’s a great guy etc., but I don’t get the passion to make him president of UVa. Really great guy, don’t get me wrong.

  • Too soon for Ed Ayers to forsake Richmond.

    But, hiring a 60-year old makes me think the
    BOV is looking down the road about 60 miles.

  • OWDoug- that’s exactly what I thought. It’s the one thing that stuck me as odd. Casteen is 66, so it seems that she will probably follow in the footsteps of Robert O’Neil by serving around 5 years as well.

    Her husband, Douglas Laycock, looks like quite a catch for the the law school, regardless. Also her CV makes her look more like a replacement for Leonard Sandridge then Casteen but I only read an article or two, FWIW. Having worked at Texas- Austin and Michigan makes her quite qualified IMHO. They are two really great public universities and much larger than UVa. Perhaps she thought this might be a nice little pre-retirement gig

  • I don’t know what I was thinking about Bob O’Neill having no prior connection to the university. Maybe I figured he was a law professor prior to being a president? I don’t know, but I’ve got a corrective note inserted now. Thanks for the correction, Pete!

  • Have to say this is a historic moment for UVa, a university that did not even admit women as undergraduates until 40 years ago. I was an undergrad in the late 60s and remember the debates, how so many alumni and even students(overwhelmingly white and male) bitterly opposed it. In fact it was kind of like a litmus test-co-education supporters were seen as the same element who protested the Vietnam War, smoked pot,disdained fraternities for the Prism Coffeehouse.
    I seem to recall that Robert O’Neil’s problem was that he did indeed run afoul of the good old boy network, and ended up over at the Thomas Jefferson Center for Free Expression- a project of Tom Worrell then on the BOV(and owner of the Daily Progress).
    Hopefully that will not happen with Ms. Sullivan, but judging from some of the posts I have seen on another local media forum the opposition is there- based largely on her association with women studies and affirmative action. Obviously not someone the Rush Limbaugh crowd approves of.
    Hopefully she will bring fresh ideas, but I do not envy her task in this present climate of economic difficulties(education budget cuts), not to mention the fact that some will hold the fact that she is not a white male against her.

  • As long as she understands that her top priority is to be a fund raiser and not an administrator she should be able to survive for 5 years. As far as LS goes I believe they have many suitable qualified candidates to take over his duties and responsibilities right in madison hall. Correct me if i’m wrong Waldo.

  • But no one in Madison Hall has the charisma or work ethic or institutional knowledge that LS has. He will be hard to replace

  • From reading the releases and articles, seems to me one of her strengths is administration. Maybe they are thinking of pawning the fund raising off and having a strong administrator at the helm to grow the university and improve it. As a UVA alumn, I think she sounds like an outstanding candidate and very qualified. Her plug for athletics will endear her to many “old boys” more so than many. She does not seem like a head in the clouds academic purist. Coming from athletic power houses like UT and UM I would think she has a good understanding of how alumns and the community rally around sports.

  • I agree with Gman — this hire suggests the BOV wanted someone to RUN THE SCHOOL. not a fundraiser, not a schmoozer, but an administrator. a realist, someone who understands public institutions with very high reputations but also ambitious sports programs. someone who understands what modern-era faculty have to deal with and (perhaps) how to hire and retain them.

  • As far as LS goes I believe they have many suitable qualified candidates to take over his duties and responsibilities right in madison hall. Correct me if i’m wrong Waldo.

    Honestly, I’m totally unqualified to say. I don’t know what the bulk of what Leonard Sandridge’s duties are. There are some very experienced, very bright, very capable people working in Madison Hall, but I agree with Jan that there’s a certain…oh…quelle heure est-il* that Sandridge has that’ll be tough to replicate.

    I’m still waiting to meet the guy so I can point out that we’re cousins by marriage. My guess is that he won’t care.

    * Credit due to Avery Chenowith for this joke.

  • Do LS and Gordon Burris have set retirement dates? Also, how does it work with a new president. Is it like a coaching staff where they bring in some of their own top brass? or does everyone else pretty much stay in place around her?

  • She may bring in her own chief of staff but normally the same folks stay in their jobs which is a good thing since she’ll need them. Anyway, it wouldn’t look good to fire a bunch of people.

    I think LS is leaving in early 2011.

  • Haven’t seen GB in a while, but I would think he would be usefull to the new president as she settles into her new position, at least for a short while, maybe even longer. The new president can administer/administrate all she wants, BUT donations and giving to the University had better not drop off one cent on her watch or she’ll find out what she is there for really quick. There are two and possibly three persons right under LS who I think would be good replacements for L. Will not name names.
    Correct me if I’m wrong Waldo.
    All things have to end sooner or later, and when LS retires from the University it will be a sad day. He has been a tireless and faithful employee of the University, and he will be missed.

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