provost : Gene Block
D. Block, U.Va. vice president for research and public service
and an internationally respected biologist known for his research
rhythms, has been named the University's vice president and
Block will become the chief academic officer, responsible
for oversight of U.Va.'s 10 schools, as well as the University
Library, the Bayly Art Museum, and the University's three
residential colleges. He will take over /Sept. 1 from Peter
W. Low, provost since 1994, who will return to teaching at
the Law School.
University President John T. Casteen III praised Block for
his "strong commitment to public service, his excellent
judgment, his dedication to core academic values and his profound
"Gene's background as a researcher and his years in the
classroom give him an intimate understanding of the challenges
our faculty face every day," Casteen said. "His
past eight years as a University administrator add a high
level of understanding of University-wide needs and opportunities."
Working closely with Casteen, his cabinet and the deans of
each school, Block will be responsible for shaping academic
policy; advancing the recommendations of Virginia 2020, the
University's long-term planning initiative; and maintaining
the continued excellence of U.Va.'s departments and schools
and the ongoing strength of the University's libraries. In
addition, he will serve as principal staff for the Board of
Visitors' Committee on Educational Policy, which governs all
of the academic programs.
Among the expectations that Casteen has laid out for Block
are the "cultivation of great deans and department heads,
the fostering of excellence in our faculty and the superb
education of our students."
"I am honored by the selection committee's and the President's
confidence in me," Block said. "Although at the
moment the assignment seems daunting, I will take over a very
talented and well-run office. Peter Low is a friend and mentor,
and I am confident that we will have a smooth transition."
Block, who joined the University faculty in 1978 as an assistant
professor, became a full professor in 1989 and founding director
of the National Science Foundation's Center for Biological
Timing in 1991.
That job was the beginning of what Block calls his "unplanned
transition" from scientist to administrator. Science
and teaching had been lifelong passions he said he never dreamed
of leaving. In 1993, he was tapped to fill the newly created
position of vice provost for research, becoming the University's
principal research adviser and advocate.
"Academic leadership is a unique and interesting challenge
requiring consensus building, identification of appropriate
incentives and development of creative opportunities that
engage faculty participation," Block said.
Block has begun to outline his provost's agenda for the next
few years, to include:
implementing the Virginia 2020 commission recommendations
in a smart, timely and effective manner;
developing a larger pool of women and minority academic
administrators poised to take on top leadership positions;
identifying financial resources to build new space
and renovate existing facilities devoted to the academic mission;
improving the University's attractiveness to the very
best graduate students; and
achieving an appropriate balance between building excellence
within traditional academic disciplines and capitalizing on
opportunities to create new interdisciplinary institutes and
In 1998, Casteen added the public-service mission to Block's
responsibilities. Since then, Block and his staff have worked
hand-in-hand with the Virginia 2020 Public Service Planning
Commission to establish the University as a leader in public
Karen Van Lengen, dean of the School of Architecture and chair
of the provost search committee, said, "We are so pleased
that Gene Block has accepted the offer to lead the academic
branch of the University as its next provost. As vice president
for research and public service, Gene successfully led and
developed an ambitious research program for the University."
A native of Monticello, N.Y., Block received his A.B. in psychology
from Stanford University in 1970, and master's and Ph.D. degrees
in psychology from the University of Oregon.
This fall, Block will team-teach a lecture class on biological
clocks with biology department colleagues Michael Menaker
and Carla Green. "I do not plan to abandon my research
program or my teaching," Block said. "I believe
it is important for academic administrators to remain close
to the core missions of the University, and there is no better
way than by direct participation."
& Science dean: Ed Ayers
history professor Edward L. Ayers has been named dean of the
College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences effective
Ayers is a nationally acclaimed expert on the history of the
South and a pioneer in the use of technology in humanities
research and teaching.
"Ed's vision and creativity have revolutionized the study
of the humanities," said U.Va. President John T. Casteen
III. "I have great confidence that these traits will
bring new energy and excitement to the College and will transform
the way faculty and students approach teaching, learning and
Ayers, the Hugh P. Kelly Professor of History, succeeds Melvyn
P. Leffler as the chief administrator of the liberal arts
core of the University. Leffler stepped down after four years
as dean to accept the visiting Harmsworth Professorship in
American History at Oxford University in England.
With approximately 725 faculty members in 25 academic departments,
a like number of academic and research centers and interdisciplinary
programs, and more than 10,600 of U.Va.'s 18,550 undergraduate
and graduate students, the College and Graduate School include
approximately 20 programs ranked among the nation's strongest
as well as recognized leaders in every field of learning within
the liberal arts.
"I'm honored to be given this opportunity to work on
behalf of the College and Graduate School and the University.
Though I've been here for 20 years, there is still much to
learn about this extraordinarily complex institution,"
Ayers said. "This place has shaped me and sustained me
throughout my career and I look forward to helping it move
forward in whatever way I can."
The search committee, which began its work in October, interviewed
a half-dozen candidates in late March and narrowed the field
to three for on-Grounds interviews, said committee chair Gene
D. Block, vice president for research and public service.
Ayers stood out for his "very broad vision and passion
for the academic community, undergraduate education and outstanding
scholarship. He brings all of that together as well as anybody
I've ever met."
Ayers praised Leffler, a strong advocate for Arts & Sciences
who led the school's participation in the Campaign for U.Va.,
which took in $155.4 million in gifts and pledges for Arts
& Sciences. Leffler also helped launch a new College Foundation.
In accepting the leadership of Arts & Sciences, Ayers
said he plans to promote innovation in teaching and research.
This includes the University's proposed Digital Academical
Village, intended to integrate digital technology with the
humanities and social sciences in ways that promise to redefine
a liberal arts education in the Internet age.
"I want us to live up to Jefferson's original vision
of the University as the most modern and forward-looking institution
of higher education in the nation. I'm interested in all forms
of innovation and ground-breaking work," he said.
"Even as we pursue those ends, however, we must always
focus on our central missions: improving the quality of undergraduate
life and education, strengthening our graduate programs, building
our departments and keeping our superb faculty and staff."
Ayers, 48, graduated from the University of Tennessee and
earned master's and doctoral degrees from Yale. He joined
the U.Va. history faculty in 1980. He co-founded the Virginia
Center for Digital History at U.Va. three years ago, with
current center director William G. Thomas. Earlier this year,
he was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts &
Sciences. Ayers also won Presidential appointment to the 26-member
National Council on the Humanities in 1999.
Ayers' acclaimed project, "Valley of the Shadow: Two
Communities in the American Civil War" recently won the
first E-Lincoln Prize, awarded by Gettysburg College. Its
site makes primary sources of information available to
scholars and the general public.