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.”