UVA in the news: Bigwigs, Olympic medals, and remembering Orange Spring

John Kerry delivered his first speech as Secretary of State on Grounds in February. Photo: Dan Addison/UVA Public Affairs John Kerry delivered his first speech as Secretary of State on Grounds in February. Photo: Dan Addison/UVA Public Affairs

There’s no question about the biggest UVA story since last spring. After the Board of Visitors ousted President Teresa Sullivan last June, the faculty and student body went up in arms. Two weeks of meetings, rallies, and resignations followed, and on June 26 Sullivan was reinstated. Students and faculty pushed for the resignation of rector Helen Dragas, but she remained on the Board after her reappointment by Governor Bob McDonnell June 29.

On August 7, UVA announced the resignation of Chief Operating Officer Michael Strine, a Sullivan appointee seen as more closely allied with the BOV than the president during the ouster. His departure allowed the reinstated Sullivan to do some “necessary internal restructuring,” she said. He had been on the job 13 months. On October 19, former Ernst & Young exec and UVA Medical Center Board member Patrick Hogan was announced as his replacement.

Photo: Cramer Photo
Photo: Cramer Photo

President Obama visited Charlottesville to stump for then-Senate candidate Tim Kaine on August 29, and targeted his message at college students. A set of bleachers on the nTelos Wireless Pavilion stage was filled with orange and blue, and students spoke out afterward about Obama’s plans to improve financial aid for higher education.

Photo: Matt Riley
Photo: Matt Riley

Star swimmer Lauren Perdue competed in the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, England, and took home a gold medal for the 4×200-meter freestyle relay. Perdue’s name was all over Twitter and Facebook after she politely declined a dinner invitation from NBA player LeBron James.

Convicted murderer George Huguely, who was on track to graduate from UVA in the spring of 2010 before the violent, drunken night that resulted in the death of Yeardley Love, asked for a retrial last August. Charlottesville Circuit Court Judge Edward Hogshire denied the request, and on August 30, sentenced him to 23 years in prison for second degree murder.

Would Thomas Jefferson be proud? Last September, UVA was named the nation’s number one party school by Playboy. The magazine took “America’s top 100 colleges” and ranked them on three qualities: nightlife, sex life, and sporting life. UVA came in just above the University of Southern California and the University of Florida.

In another post-ouster staff shakeup, UVA spokeswoman Carol Wood announced her retirement after 17 years at the school on September 28. She was replaced on an interim basis in October by former University of Texas spokesman Anthony de Bruyn, who is currently heading up a newly reorganized communications department that answers directly to Sullivan.

Former UVA psychiatry researcher Weihua Huang was awarded $660,000 by a federal court last October after suing two supervisors over a wrongful termination. The jury found that his firing violated the False Claims Act.

In December, the fallout from the Sullivan drama continued when the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission placed UVA on a one-year warning, saying the University violated core requirements regarding governance in the course of the ouster. Provost John D. Simon called the decision “disappointing,” but said UVA leadership was “proactively working together to review governance practices and policies to ensure the highest level of transparency, accountability and responsiveness.”

John Kerry delivered his first speech as Secretary of State on Grounds on February 20. UVA’s founder was the first person to hold Kerry’s title, and his name came up nearly a dozen times during the speech in Old Cabel Hall.

The University’s much-lauded Honor Code underwent one of the most substantial changes in its 170-year history when the student body voted February 25 to approved “informed retraction,” allowing students to confess to lying, cheating, or stealing after they learn they’re suspected of a violation. Students rejected replacing randomly selected honor juries with elected five-person panels.

A multi-year, $33 million makeover of Newcomb Hall, a dining and activity hub on Grounds—one of several concurrent capital projects at UVA—saw completion in early spring. The upgrade included a 20,000 square-foot addition and 500 new seats for diners, a new theater, and new lounge spaces throughout the building.

Photo: Dan Addison/UVA Public Affairs
Photo: Dan Addison/UVA Public Affairs

Scaffolding that has surrounded the iconic Rotunda began coming down the week of May 6, just in time for Commencement. A year-long roof repair, part of a $50 million renovation of the building, was nearly complete, but for one detail: the color. Due to worries over rain, officials stopped short of painting the dome white, leaving it gleaming copper for now.

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