Here are some of the key players in the ouster of University of Virginia president Teresa Sullivan.
Vice Rector Mark Kington, who played a leading role in the ouster of University of Virginia President Teresa Sullivan, has been in the middle of hardball university politics before.
He first won the coveted appointment from then-Gov. Mark Warner (D), a former business partner whose campaign he helped bankroll. He promptly lost it four years later, after backing the wrong guy for governor.
Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R), whose campaigns and PAC have received a total of $176,000 from Kington, put him back on the board four years after that.
Now he is out again — this time by choice.
Kington announced he would resign Tuesday, not long after he is said to have teamed up with Rector Helen E. Dragas to orchestrate Sullivan’s removal, showing up at her office unannounced to say they had the votes to force her out.
“I believe that this is the right thing to do and I hope that it will begin a needed healing process at the university,” he said in his resignation letter to McDonnell on Tuesday.
A graduate of the University of Tennessee, Kington, 53, earned a master’s in business administration from U-Va.’s Darden School of Business in 1988 and went into business with future governor and U.S. senator Warner.
Now president of Kington Management Co. and Managing Director of X-10 Capital Management, Kington has been a generous and bipartisan political donor, giving more than $465,400 to Virginia candidates since 1997, according to the Virginia Public Access Project. He donated $131,000 to Warner’s gubernatorial campaign.
Four years later, he donated $90,000 to Republican gubernatorial hopeful Jerry Kilgore. When Kilgore lost to Democrat Timothy M. Kaine, Kington lost his spot on the board.
Kington has given $20,000 to the Virginia League of Conservation Voters, reflecting an interest in the environment stemming from his father’s work as a physicist in the Manhattan Project.
“He died from beryllium exposure when I was young,” Kington said when announcing the $1.5 million Joe D. and Helen J. Kington Professorship in Environmental Change he created at U-Va. to honor his father and mother, a science teacher.
In 2000, Kington and his wife bought Robert E. Lee’s Alexandria boyhood home, which had been a museum, and turned it into their private home. After an uproar by preservationists, the Kingtons offered to sell the $2.5 million house to someone willing to run a museum there, but no buyer stepped up.
— Laura Vozzella
Teresa A. Sullivan
Ousted by U.Va.’s governing board in a disagreement over the pace of change at the university under her leadership, Sullivan has defended her “incrementalist” approach and warned of the dangers of “sweeping action” and “deep, top-down cuts.”
A sociologist by training, Sullivan, 62, taught at the University of Chicago, where she received a doctorate, and at the University of Texas’s Austin campus in the 1970s and 1980s. Her speciality is the demographics of the labor force, with an emphasis on consumer debt and “economic marginality,” according to her U.Va. biography. If the board sticks to its decision to remove Sullivan as president, just two years into her five-year contract, she could return to the classroom as a U.Va. sociology professor.
Sullivan was executive vice chancellor for academic affairs in the nine-campus University of Texas system from 2002 to 2006, then held a similar post at the University of Michigan before she became U.Va.’s eighth president in August 2010. Her husband, Douglas Laycock, is a professor at U.Va.’s law school.
— Paul Duggan
Helen E. Dragas
Holding resolute in a storm of criticism, Rector Helen E. Dragas led the Board of Visitors in its controversial action to remove U-Va. President Teresa A. Sullivan. Dragas expressed regret Monday for the pain and confusion of the process but did not waver about what she described as a need to make “important and often difficult calls.”
A real estate developer by occupation, Dragas, 50, is chief executive of a successful Virginia Beach business, The Dragas Companies, which was founded by her father and recognized for its moderately priced housing and work on community projects. She is a director for Dominion Resources and previously served on the State Council of Higher Education and the Commonwealth Transportation Board.
Dragas earned an undergraduate degree from U-Va. in 1984, then worked in the family business two years before returning to to earn a master’s in business administration in 1988 at the Darden School of Business. She was appointed to the Board of Visitors in 2008 by then-Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) and later became the first female rector. She is married to attorney Lewis Warrington Webb III, and has three children.
W. Heywood Fralin
The lone Board of Visitors member to cast a dissenting vote against the newly named interim leader, W. Heywood Fralin was a former rector and vocal supporter of ousted president Teresa Sullivan.
The prominent Roanoke-based businessman was part of the 19-member search committee that recruited Sullivan in 2010. In a welcome letter to the new president published in a university magazine, Fralin, now 72, praised Sullivan’s credentials, calling her “as knowledgeable about the issues facing higher education as anyone I’ve met in the last 20 years.”
Fralin was not aware of the plan to oust Sullivan until very late in the process, sources told The Washington Post.
A 1962 graduate of the university’s college of arts and science, Fralin is chairman of Medical Facilities of America, a nursing home operator. He also leads the Virginia Business Higher Education Council, which advocates for greater state funding for public colleges.
Fralin was appointed to the Board of Visitors by Gov. Mark R. Warner in March 2004 and served a two-year term as rector starting in 2007. The board voted in May to rename the campus art museum the “Fralin Museum of Art” after he and his wife announced they would donate a 40-piece American art collection
— Michael Alison Chandler
George M. Cohen
Chairman of the Faculty Senate and law professor George M. Cohen, 51, has been the spokesman for outraged colleagues and a key figure in challenging the removal of University of Virginia President Teresa Sullivan.
Under Cohen’s leadership, the senate's Executive Council last week unanimously adopted a resolution of support for Sullivan and a resolution of no confidence in the rector, vice rector and Board of Visitors.
Cohen also met with Rector Helen E. Dragas to ask for her resignation and Sullivan’s reinstatement.
Criticizing the “secretive nature” of the board’s actions, Cohen and his colleagues requested that faculty be given a voting position on the board and asked for a delay in naming an interim president.
“We don’t know whether the board is considering any or all of these,” Cohen said, speaking Monday to a crowd of students and faculty who has gathered in a show of support of Sullivan. “But let’s hope they’re doing the right thing.”
The board went ahead with its plans, announcing early Tuesday that Carl P. Zeithaml would serve as interim president.
— Emma Brown
John D. Simon
Provost John D. Simon, 55, came to U-Va. as President Teresa Sullivan’s No. 2 in charge of academics. He has emerged as a staunch supporter of his boss and an outspoken critic of the Board of Visitors that ousted her, raising questions about his future at the university.
“I now find myself at a defining moment, confronting and questioning whether honor, integrity and trust are truly the foundational pillars of life at the University of Virginia,” he said Sunday to hundreds of faculty members gathered in support of Sullivan.
“The board actions over the next few days,” Simon added, “will inform me as to whether the University of Virginia remains the type of institution I’m willing to dedicate my efforts to help lead.”
Faculty leaders had hoped Simon would be tapped as interim president. But he was said to have taken his name out of the running.
He was a respected chemistry professor and administrator at Duke University before U-Va. hired him last year as chief academic officer. Simon said he was drawn to Charlottesville in part by Sullivan, her vision for Virginia’s flagship school and her frank assessment of the challenges facing higher education.
— Emma Brown