U-Va. Board of Visitors now led by George Keith Martin, William H. Goodwin Jr.

As of July 1, the University of Virginia Board of Visitors has new leadership: George Keith Martin, a Richmond lawyer, will chair the board as rector for the next two years, and William “Bill” H. Goodwin Jr., a Richmond businessman and major U-Va. donor was recently elected second in command.

The board is much changed since last June, when it tried and failed to oust U-Va. President Teresa Sullivan. Of the 17 seats on the board, only eight are filled by people who were around during the crisis.

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In the past year, two members resigned, and others’ appointments expired. Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) appointed five new members last summer — including a former college president and a former hospital leader — and another in January. This month, he is expected to appoint three new members, after which the board would be made up entirely of his appointees.

Many view this month’s change in leadership as another step away from last summer. Helen Dragas is no longer in charge, although the formerly embattled rector was reappointed by McDonnell and is set to remain on the board for three years. Among U-Va. faculty and staff members, there is a sense of optimism that the past year was one of trust-building and strategic planning and that the coming year can be one of invigorating action. The American Association of University Professors issued a statement expressing ”guarded optimism.” Here are profiles of the new rector and vice rector:

Rector George Keith Martin

U-Va. employees have nothing but glowing compliments for Martin and his leadership style. In the past two months, Martin, 59, has been called diplomatic, gentle, thoughtful, approachable, communicative, a great listener and an “all-around great guy.”

“He is not a micromanager,” said George Cohen, the former chairman of the U-Va. Faculty Senate. “He is not someone who looks to be in the spotlight. . . . He is a behind-the-scenes guy.”

Martin, a 1975 U-Va. graduate, is the first African American to lead the board. U-Va. did not admit African Americans until the 1950s (or women until the 1970s). When Martin attended U-Va., he was one of 250 black students.

“My experience here was very special,” Martin said in a Q&A posted on the university Web site. “I met a lot of interesting people, faculty members, as well as students. But I think that the most significant thing that happened to me here was that one student introduced me to Jesus Christ. And I got involved with a Bible study that was just unbelievable. That was life-changing.”

Martin went on to receive a law degree from Howard University in 1978, and he is now the managing partner of the Richmond office of McGuireWoods, where he focuses on construction, commercial real estate and local government law. Some of his projects have included luxury hotels, convention centers, corporate headquarters campuses and hospitals, according to his corporate biography.

“I enjoy it,” Martin said in the Q&A. “The irony is this: I actually wanted to be an architect. I’m in the real estate group, and I do a lot of construction and public-private partnerships. So I joke that I sort of get it vicariously. I love what I do.”

Martin also serves on the board of the Regent University School of Law and has served on the board of James Madison University. Martin, who is known for nearly always wearing a bow tie, has donated more than $50,000 to U-Va., including nearly $14,000 in the past year.

Martin was traveling this week and was not easily reachable, but he said in a statement that he is honored to serve as rector, the board’s top position, and looks forward to “continuing to work collaboratively with the board, the president and her team to move U.Va. forward.”

The governor appointed Martin to the board in 2011. McDonnell said in a statement this week that Martin has “exceptional intellect and unimpeachable character” and is one of the state’s “most esteemed attorneys and leaders.”

Vice Rector William H. Goodwin Jr.

Goodwin, 72, previously served on the Board of Visitors from 1996 to 2004. Goodwin is one of U-Va.’s most generous donors and has given more than $65 million, including $15 million in the past year alone.

Last summer, McDonnell appointed Goodwin as a non-voting “senior adviser” to the board, praising his experience, wisdom and dedication to ”building an even more illustrious future” for U-Va. (Goodwin’s son-in-law and business partner, Robert Hardie, was on the board during the turmoil last summer but was not reappointed when his term ended.) In January, Goodwin became a full board member. He is on track to become rector in July 2015, one year before Sullivan’s contract expires.

Goodwin received a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Virginia Tech in 1962 and an MBA from U-Va. in 1966. He started his career at IBM, but left in 1971 to start a computer-leasing company called Commonwealth Computer Advisors.

Eventually, Goodwin led a group of investors that bought and sold companies, including the biggest name in the bowling industry, AMF, which was purchased in the 1980s and then sold in 1996 for more than $1 billion. After the sale, Goodwin and his partners gave 4,000 employees bonuses that totaled $50 million, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch. (AMF Bowling Worldwide and bowling center operator Bowlmor recently completed a merger proposed by AMF as part of a plan to emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.)

Goodwin and his holding company, now called CCA Industries, is perhaps best known for a subsidiary that runs luxury hotels and resorts. The portfolio includes two resorts in South Carolina, the Hermitage Hotel in Nashville, the stately Jefferson Hotel in Richmond and, the most recent addition, Keswick Hall near Charlottesville.

One of Goodwin’s longtime business partners was Beverley Wilkes “Booty” Armstrong (the nickname comes from Armstrong’s high school football days). The two met during business school at U-Va. Armstrong died in 2011 after a long battle with cancer, according to his obituary. Goodwin and his wife, Alice, have donated millions to cancer research.

Goodwin and Armstrong shared some of their business secrets in a 2001 USA Today article about the Jefferson Hotel. The two friends bought the aging landmark on an impulse in 1991. Rather than cutting costs, as many hotels do, they spent $20 million on improvements. They figured that if the Jefferson was a superior hotel, people would pay more to stay there. They were determined to get a five-diamond rating from AAA, which happened in 1994.

In his first year back on the board, Goodwin has been a frequent commenter, questioner and giver of compliments. He sometimes becomes defensive about assertions that U-Va. is not already amazing.

Goodwin upset some faculty members last fall when he publicly reprimanded a faculty leader who had repeatedly demanded an explanation of the failed ouster of Sullivan, but he also helped achieve a consensus among board members to try to increase faculty pay.

During a tense finance meeting this year, Goodwin asked why the university needed to increase tuition when it had so much money from other sources, irritating administrators who had spent hours explaining the complexities of the budget. But he ended up voting for the increase.

In a brief interview this week, Goodwin said: “The University of Virginia has been ranked No. 1 or No. 2 forever. We’re going to make what is already good a little bit better.”

 
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