Oct. 1-14, 2004
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Meyers gives Curry $22 million
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Making good health of world’s poor
Hereford’s half-century: Former president remembered as link between U.Va.’s past and future
Faculty Senate explores collaborations at retreat
Football game Oct. 7 will limit parking
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Art History — Mixing it up
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Hereford’s half-century:
Former president remembered as link between U.Va.’s past and future
U.Va.’s fifth president, Frank L. Hereford Jr. (foreground), U.Va.’s third president, Colgate W. Darden (right), and U.Va.’s fourth president, Edgar F. Shannon, process the Lawn.

By Dan Heuchert

When 17-year-old Louisiana native Frank Hereford first arrived at the University of Virginia in the fall of 1940 to begin his undergraduate studies, he could not possibly have anticipated the extraordinary future that lay ahead — both for himself and for U.Va.

Hereford would work on the Manhattan Project; earn a Ph.D. at age 23; join the physics faculty at 26; rise through the ranks of the University administration, capped by a much-acclaimed, 11-year tenure as U.Va.’s fifth president; and then quietly return to teaching, research and an “elder statesman” role.

The University, meanwhile, would be transformed from a quaint, all-white, mostly male, regional university into a forward-looking, coeducational, diverse national powerhouse — one that learned to stand on its own feet financially and reach for the greatness that its founder envisioned.

Frank Loucks Hereford Jr., a transforming link between the University’s past and its future, died Sept. 21 at Westminster-Canterbury of the Blue Ridge in Charlottesville at age 81. He was buried six days later in the University Cemetery.

Hereford’s love for the University was unquestioned. His colleagues, students and alumni loved him right back.

“He had a youthful exuberance that seemed to capture people easily,” said William H. Fishback Jr., who was director of information services in the Hereford administration and currently teaches news writing.

“He was liked by virtually everyone,” agreed William H. “Harry” Muller Jr., who served as vice president of health affairs under Hereford. “He was just delightful to be with, good company. I was very fond of him.”

The University that greeted Hereford in 1940 differed in many ways from what it is today. World War II was raging, and U.Va. was accelerating students through their studies and into uniform. But it was also still a well-regarded Southern institution with a genteel student body and a healthy social scene.

Avery Catlin, who started his U.Va. career as a student in 1941 and later served as executive vice president under Hereford, recalled that his peers weren’t necessarily academically oriented. “It seemed like half of my fraternity had been kicked out of Ivy League schools, and the other half were from old Virginia families,” he said. “Education wasn’t very important to many of the people that I associated with.”

In an oral history interview conducted in 1993, Hereford recalled his undergraduate days as a time when all students wore coats and ties and danced to the music of big bands in Memorial Gymnasium with visitors from women’s colleges.

Hereford’s legacy

“Frank Hereford contributed in every important way to the University’s development and progress over the course of 35-plus years.

Desegregation, coeducation, the growth of research programs, the physical organization of the modern Grounds, the modern endowment and its impact on operations in an era when the state no longer makes education its top priority — each of these hallmarks of the University at its best in our time belongs in major ways to his list of contributions.

“As professor, faculty leader and provost, he worked hand-in-glove with Edgar F. Shannon Jr., his predecessor as president, to conceive or imagine the University as it became in his time. As president, he continued building the graduate school, led with quiet courage in the work that created real diversity within the University and set the goal of making it the best public institution in America. He was a quiet, thoughtful, passionately principled man who knew right and wrong when he saw them and sided firmly with right.

“In his personal life, his great commitments were his wife Ann, his children and grandchildren. He loved the outdoors, and dogs, and rambles through woods and fields, and at the same time he was the consummate scholar. In 1985, on finishing his time as president, he went back to his department to begin anew the teaching of physics, especially physics for engineering students, that he had set aside earlier to take responsibility for the entire University. He ended his career as he began it, in the laboratory and the classroom and in the company of his students and faculty colleagues.”

John T. Casteen III
U.Va.’s current (seventh) president,
who served under Hereford as
dean of admission from 1975-1982.

“You spent a good bit of time going to see those young women at various schools — on the weekends in particular. Roll down to Sweet Briar, Randolph-Macon, or Hollins or what have you,” he said. “That’s where I met [my future wife] Ann; she was at Sweet Briar.”
From the beginning, Hereford showed signs of leadership, recalled former Curry School of Education dean Richard M. Brandt, who was Hereford’s Alpha Tau Omega fraternity brother. “His room was always the central gathering place for his friends,” he said. His fraternity brothers entrusted him with the house business affairs in just his second year at the University.

“Even as a young man, he displayed the qualities that would shape his leadership of this great University — a brilliant intellect, wise judgment and good humor,” Brandt said.

Hereford majored in physics, and after graduating in 1943, stayed on to pursue doctoral studies under Professor Jesse W. Beams, who called Hereford “one of the best all-around physicists with whom I have ever been associated.” Beams was involved in research to support the Manhattan Project, which developed the atomic bomb; Hereford worked in Beams’ lab on centrifuges, and later on anti-aircraft ordnance.

After completing his Ph.D. in 1947, Hereford left U.Va. to work at the Bartol Research Foundation in Swarthmore, Pa. He returned two years later as an associate professor of physics, and remained in Charlottesville, with the exception of one year as a Fulbright Scholar at the University of Birmingham in England (1957-1958) and another year as a visiting professor at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland (1971-1972).

Hereford built a solid record in the lab. His chief interests were cosmic rays and nuclear physics, recalled longtime friend, fraternity brother and faculty colleague W. Dexter Whitehead. He authored more than 60 scholarly articles during his career and is credited as a co-discoverer of the heavy particles that strike the earth from outer space. He was made a full professor at age 29, earned many academic honors and was awarded the Robert C. Taylor Professorship in Physics in 1966, at age 43.

Under University President Edgar F. Shannon, the young physicist’s administrative career accelerated. Hereford was named dean of the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences in 1962, expanding both the quality and quantity of graduate degrees awarded, according to Virginius Dabney’s “Mr. Jefferson’s University: A History.” He was elevated to provost in 1966 — the same year he was given the Thomas Jefferson Award, the greatest honor given to a member of the University community — later adding vice president to his title.

As the University’s chief academic officer, Hereford played a major role in Shannon’s efforts to improve the faculty, which in turn put the University on the road to its present stature. He helped found the Center for Advanced Studies, an effective recruitment lure for top-notch scholars.

As provost, Hereford also chaired the Committee on the Future of the University, which planned U.Va.’s development and the transition to full coeducation. It was Hereford who negotiated on the University’s behalf with the three-judge panel that oversaw the coeducation effort, a negotiation that accelerated an eight-year transition to just two years.

Hereford resigned as provost in 1971 and planned to return to his physics work for the rest of his career. He headed off to Scotland for a one-year visiting professorship.

It wasn’t long after he returned that Shannon announced he would retire as president.

Succeeding Shannon “was the last thing that either I or my wife had any interest in,” Hereford recalled in the oral history. “But as time went along, I suppose it was fairly obvious that I would be among the people considered by the Board of Visitors.”

With Ann’s blessing, he was chosen as president-elect in October 1973. He spent what Fishback called a “red-shirt year” preparing for his new role by reading, traveling and making key alumni contacts.

From the beginning, he had in mind the project that would become the hallmark of his presidency: a major fund-raising campaign.

“I told [the presidential search committee] that I thought that it was obvious that the level of state and federal support of higher
education was going to decrease because the number of 18-year-olds was going down,” he said in the oral history. “I thought there was going to be a time that the University would have to concentrate much more heavily on private support than it had in past years. Of course, that turned out to be the case.”

Mindful that an earlier campaign, undertaken shortly after World War II, was doomed by U.Va.’s decentralized structure, he spent the first few years of his presidency laying the groundwork for a universitywide effort.

“Frank, being the kind of person he was — a person of great integrity who everyone in the University trusted, who had great credibility — was able to ... bring everybody together and carry that out,” said Ray C. Hunt, who served as vice president for finance and chief operating officer in the Hereford administration. A tireless fund-raiser, Hereford spent long stretches on the road and continually hosted events at Carr’s Hill. He was the model of today’s public-university fund-raiser-in-chief.
He also had a major ally: Ann, who was constantly at his side.

“You can’t understate the role that Mrs. Hereford played in all this,” Fishback said. “She certainly was a superb advocate for the University.”

The campaign was a huge success, raising $140 million. The endowment nearly tripled, from $97 million to $280 million. The number of endowed professorships increased from about 85 when he took office to more than 250 by 1993.

Hereford had an informal leadership style. The day began with the “morning mail review,” ostensibly a going-over of important items that arrived in the mail. It became a time of discussion and consensus-building, and people more often than not left the meeting with assignments, Fishback recalled.

“He approached issues and problems as a scientist — he gathered data and made a quick decision,” said Ernest H. Ern, then vice president for student affairs and now interim chancellor at the University of Virginia’s College at Wise. “He always made the best decision in the interests of the University.”

Hereford also enjoyed give-and-take. He was a frequent participant in a “coffee klatch” that took place daily at the Colonnade Club, in which several regulars gathered to discuss issues of the day. Hereford often was called upon to defend his decisions, Fishback recalled.
There was no shortage of controversy.

Shortly after becoming president, students, faculty and even the Washington Post criticized Hereford’s membership in the whites-only Farmington Country Club.

Hereford initially declined to resign, saying that he was trying to reform the club from within. “Along with a group of members, I felt that Farmington ought to change its policy, and we made a big effort over a period of months” to change the rules that barred black guests, Hereford said in the oral history.

“We got up a petition and submitted it to the Farmington board in hopes that they would change their policy. And without dragging the story out, we went through a lot of back and forth about it.

“They ultimately decided that they would not, and that’s when I, along with a lot of other people, resigned. But I wasn’t about to resign just as a token. I felt I was going to make an effort to make them change their policies.”

Though some questioned his handling of the Farmington affair, black students made strides under his tenure. Black enrollment more than doubled, from 479 to 1,198. The Office of African-American Affairs was
established in August 1976, and student protests in 1980 led to an intensification in the effort to recruit black faculty.

Hereford also took heat from some quarters for his 1982 decision to cancel Easters Weekend, a tradition that dated back to his own undergraduate days. The event, however, had changed greatly into beer-soaked gatherings that drew thousands of people from out of town, filling Madison Bowl and forcing the closure of Rugby Road.

“We had one occasion where a fire truck just couldn’t get through to get to a fire,” Hereford remembered. “It wasn’t a serious fire, fortunately, but they just announced that they were not going to take any responsibility to respond to any calls. That was not the only thing — but we just felt that it had gotten completely out of hand because of the large numbers of people that came in.”

He appointed a committee to study the problem. The committee, which included students, unanimously recommended ending the tradition.
Hereford added one more lasting legacy: he set in motion the construction of the
replacement hospital. Shortly before stepping down from the presidency in 1984, he put in place a plan to issue $150 million in bonds. (The amount was later refinanced to about $130 million.)
Hereford stepped down in 1985 after 11 years as president and was succeeded by Robert M. O’Neil.

He returned to the physics department, even teaching the introductory course, before retiring and being elected professor emeritus in 1992. His research career was irreparably set back by years of understandable neglect, but that left more time for his hobbies, which included hunting, fishing and tennis. He and Ann also did some traveling.

He purposely stayed out of the public eye, with the exception of a series of “Frank and Ray Shows,” in which he and longtime psychology professor Raymond C. Bice swapped stories of the old University for large and appreciative undergraduate audiences.

He also gave his successors his backing. “I told both Mr. O’Neil and Mr. Casteen, ‘I’ll be quiet. I’ll be your greatest supporter even when I think you are wrong. You’ll hear no criticism from me,’ and I think that’s important,” he said.

Ann died in 1997. Not long after, Hereford was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. He is survived by three adult children: Frank Lane Hereford and his wife, Beverly, of Crozet; Sarah Hereford Rick and her husband, John, of Atlanta; and Robert Mason Hereford and his wife, Cheryl, of Virginia Beach; and nine grandchildren. A daughter, Marguerite Amelie “Molly” Hereford, died in 1980.


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