Sullivan might have drawn internal criticism for fundraising. At the end of last year, the university fell $400 million short of a $3 billion fundraising target set in 2004. Annual giving is down from $233 million in fiscal year 2009 to $216 million in fiscal 2011.
But the university’s rank and stature have held fairly steady. The school is ranked 25th among national universities on the most recent U.S. News & World Report list, tied for second among public institutions.
This year’s student applicant pool of 28,274 reflected a 50 percent increase in five years. The admitted class had an average SAT score of 1,396 in reading and math, and 96 percent of the new students came from the top 10 percent of their graduating classes. Both numbers were up.
Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R), who was apprised of Sullivan’s departure shortly before it was announced to the public, thanked her in a statement for fulfilling her duties “with honor, energy and good stewardship’’ and said she was a good partner with his administration in its efforts to increase college access and affordability.
“Through her leadership, Virginia added nearly 1,000 new student slots and recently enacted the lowest yearly tuition increase in over a decade,” he said. “Having the University of Virginia play such a leading role in higher education reform was immensely helpful in ensuring that this work to expand access and affordability all across our higher education system would be successful and broadly embraced by all state institutions.”
The ever-changing composition of the university’s board, appointed by the governor, might have played a role in Sullivan’s departure. Its 16 members serve four-year terms.
“The facts are, there are eight people who are on the board now who were not on the board when she was announced” as U-Va. president, said Susan “Syd” Dorsey of Mechanicsville, a former trustee. “I don’t know if that’s a factor or not, but it’s a fact.”
Before Sunday, faculty and students said, there was a pervasive sense on campus that things were going well with Sullivan.
“I’m having a ball. I’m having a great time,” Sullivan said in January, sitting in her office with a reporter but no entourage of staffers or spokespeople. “The faculty here are fabulous.”
U-Va. trustees met in closed session Sunday afternoon to accept Sullivan’s resignation.
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