Term is up
Outgoing rector lauded as consensus-builder,
man of integrity
by Andrew Shurtleff
the end of the board meeting Feb. 1, John P. Jack
Ackerly III found himself the subject of discussion as fellow
board members presented him with a resolution thanking him
for his service and leadership as the Universitys 36th
By Elizabeth Kiem
U.Va.s Board of Visitors
gathers in the Rotunda four times a year, it is a meeting of high-powered
minds and wills.
of the most successful people in the United States are on this
board. They have strong opinions about how things should work,
and they bring a lot to the table, said John P. Jack
the common ground among those strong opinions has been the goal
of Ackerly during his term as rector. On Feb. 1, he brought down
the gavel for the final time, ending five years of presiding over
the boards meetings.
on issues of architectural planning or admissions policies, the
Board of Visitors under Ackerly pursued consideration over action
and unanimity over speed.
term has been marked by a deep level of respect for each members
viewpoint and by the sense of unity that he has worked hard to
foster among members, said Leonard W. Sandridge, executive
vice president and chief operating officer.
said that when he was elected as the 36th rector in March 1998
filling a chair previously held by Thomas Jefferson and
James Madison the task before him was obvious.
was very mindful of the fact that this was the No. 1-rated public
university in the United States, he said. It seemed
to me to be presumptuous to come in and try to change things.
My goal was to help build consensus and support the administration.
Secretary Alexander G. Gilliam Jr. noted that Ackerlys reputation
as a consensus builder was deeply felt among board members.
tried to get everybody on the board involved in all sorts of things,
he said. Ackerlys initiative resulted in board members being
on three high-powered search committees in the past two years,
to appoint an athletic director, a Medical School dean and provost.
member William G. Crutchfield Jr. said Ackerlys handling
of two particularly contentious issues illustrates his leadership
skills. In 1999, during separate debates over whether to open
a branch of the University in Qatar and whether to sell the University-owned
HMO, Ackerlys emphasis on a unified outcome enabled the
board to reach decisions that genuinely reflected the measured
views of the majority of its members, said Crutchfield.
Ackerly recalled that the boards narrow approval of the
Qatar question was the only split vote in recent history.
native of Lexington and a Civil War enthusiast, Ackerly holds
both bachelor (57) and law (60) degrees from U.Va.
He is a partner in the Richmond law firm of Troutman Sanders.
Because he and his wife, Mary, declined to invest in a Charlottesville
home, devoted attendance at board meetings, football games and
other events has made him a regular motorist on Interstate 64.
devoted Hoo fan, Ackerly used athletics to help the board
bond. Last year he encouraged the members to take a road trip
to Blacksburg for the Virginia Tech football game, a scheme that
had a tangible effect on the group, said student member H. Timothy
just a good effort to foster community, not only from a governing
standpoint but from a social standpoint, Lovelace said.
out to students is one of Ackerlys trademarks, and he has
worked to make the board more accessible to the student body,
Lovelace said. Last spring, Ackerly invited about 40 students
to join board members for an evening at the Colonnade Club. Another
such get-together is planned for April.
his goal has been to build community and consensus, Ackerly has
faced some bumpy moments, times when his legal experience has
served him well.
one point I was a defendant in eight lawsuits totaling $20 million
in damages, which isnt a really comfortable feeling,
he said, referring to litigation pitting the student Honor and
Judiciary committees against sanctioned peers. The board and president
were named as primary defendants.
discomfort is understandable. His colleagues said that being charged
with an abuse of power would be inherently difficult for a man
of his integrity.
Ackerly is one of the finest people that I know. He possesses
intelligence, modesty, respect for his fellow man and tremendous
personal integrity, said Crutchfield.
T. Casteen III called Ackerly, a man of gentle spirit, high
standards and great decency.
qualities have been tested by thorny ethical questions. During
Ackerlys term as rector, student organizations regularly
brought politics into the boardroom, asking the visitors to pass
resolutions on, among other issues, human rights in Burma and
a living wage at home.
estimation of Ackerlys handling of his obligations is unequivocal.
Jack Ackerlys contributions to the University have
been enormous, he said. The job of rector is perhaps
the most demanding one imaginable, because it involves walking
each day in the track left by an authentic American genius
Thomas Jefferson, our first rector straddling the public
and the private elements that make this a great university, and
presiding over the deliberations of a board whose responsibilities
are genuinely massive.
Ackerly, Ive just been sort of a common-sense kind
of a fellow who has tried to get people involved and work together
with the administration. Were all here for the same purpose,
and thats to make this place as good a university as we
can make it.