May 6 - June 3, 2005
Vol. 35, Issue 8
Back Issues
Leitao named 'Hoos first African-American head coach
Flagship universities must pursue excellence and access
Outstanding Contribution Award winners announced
Two-time university president rekindles love of teaching and scholarship
100 years since U.Va.'s first presidential inauguration
2005 Teaching Awards
Championing the 'F-word'
Well, well... Students' health tops University's concerns
Loud and clear; Gausvik says he's listening
Lyder blazes a busy trail at Nursing School
Researchers, environment win big in pollution cases
Documentary 'Rising Up' examines civil rights movement
Spring procurement vendor fair June 1
Iris: 25 and hitting its stride


Hail to the Chiefs
100 years since U.Va.’s first presidential inauguration

Special Collections / University Library
This archival image from the University’s Special Collections documents an inaugural banquet, held in the Dome Room on April 13, 1905, to honor U.Va.’s first president, Edwin A. Alderman.

By Matt Kelly

The University has had only seven presidents in the 180 years since it opened its doors. And Thomas Jefferson didn’t want any.

The University founder preferred a chairman of the faculty rather than a president when he established U.Va.

The school complied, operating for the rest of the 19th century with a rotating chairman of the faculty.

“During that period [U.Va.] was the only college or university of stature in the United States that functioned under this system,” Virginius Dabney wrote in his 1981 history, “Mr. Jefferson’s University.”

Edwin A . Alderman

John Lloyd Newcomb

Colgate W. Darden Jr.

Edgar F. Shannon Jr.

Framk L. Hereford Jr.

Robert M. O'Neil


The 1895 fire that destroyed the Rotunda prompted U.Va. to diverge from Jefferson’s desired governance for the school. Administrators had to wrestle with rebuilding the Rotunda and the construction of three new buildings enclosing the south end of the Lawn, and realized a modern university required a president and governing infrastructure.

Edwin A. Alderman accepted the invitation to be U.Va.’s first president in 1904 and was inaugurated on Founder’s Day in 1905. During his tenure, he helped to return the University to prominence following its decline after the Civil War. U.Va.’s enrollment rose from 500 to 2,200, and faculty numbers jumped from 48 to 290. The University’s annual revenue rose from $160,000 to $1.7 million, and the endowment
increased from $350,000 to $10 million.

Alderman also presided over the creation of new educational departments, such as geology/forestry and business, and developed an extension service for public lectures and continuing adult education.

Not only did he increase admissions in the early part of the 20th century, he sought to admit women. Eventually, women were admitted to the graduate and professional schools and could attend summer school classes for teachers in Virginia. However, segments of the University community were not in favor of coeducation, Dabney wrote, and made life difficult for the few female students who enrolled.

Alderman spent two-thirds of his administration as a near-invalid following a bout with tuberculosis in 1912 and died of a stroke while in office on April 30, 1931. His second-in-command, John Lloyd Newcomb, succeeded him.

“With Alderman physically disabled from 1912, one realizes from day to day that his major work was accomplished under difficult circumstances,” said current U.Va. President John T. Casteen III. “Newcomb’s influence is the subtle piece of the University’s history. Few understand it or him. He took on daily management of the University when Alderman became disabled, and handled that work so capably that when Alderman died, Newcomb simply continued to do what he had been doing.”

A professor of engineering, Newcomb held the University together during the Depression, according to Alexander G. “Sandy” Gilliam, current secretary of the Board of Visitors.

“The conceptual beginnings of the modern University are of Alderman’s making,” Casteen said. “The physical and financial building (and over an incredibly long time —1912 until 1947) was Newcomb’s life’s work.”
Enrollment in the Newcomb era dropped to 2,435 students at one point,
rebounding to 2,741 by 1937. Newcomb faced a 20 percent reduction in state funding, but he ensured that faculty members were paid.

Under Newcomb’s watch, Edgar Allan Poe’s room on the West Range was refurbished, Mary Washington College in Fredericksburg became affiliated with U.Va. to teach women, Scott Stadium opened, the Thomas H. Bayly Art Museum opened, Thornton Hall was built, hot water was added to the East Range, the Rotunda got a facelift, and Alderman Library was built.

Colgate W. Darden Jr., who had been governor of Virginia, chancellor at the College of William & Mary, and a member of the U.S. Congress and the Virginia House of Delegates, followed Newcomb. Elected president in 1947, Darden was a U.Va. graduate with a strong backing from the alumni. Students, however, had reservations, in part because Darden had expressed concerns about the legitimacy of fraternity houses at the University. He also wanted to open the school to more Virginians. Darden had “a determination to make the University genuinely public, genuine-ly accessible — goals that were essential to achieve in the great national expansion of university education that the GI Bill caused,” Casteen said.

During Darden’s tenure, from 1947 to 1959, a graduate school of business administration (named after him in 1973) was created, William Faulkner became the University’s first writer in residence in 1957, the McIntire School of Commerce was given status as a separate school, the Medical Center’s School of Nursing was established (replacing the Department of Nursing), and the College at Wise was created.

“The academic prominence of the latter half of the 20th century begins with Darden and the establishment of the Commonwealth Chairs, which for the first time made faculty positions here comparable to those at the most prominent American universities,” Casteen said.

Darden’s term included construction of 10 residence houses for 1,244 students, New Cabell Hall, Newcomb Hall, the chemical engineering wing of Thornton Hall, a women’s dormitory, the central heating plant, a cafeteria to feed 600 students, a new building for the physics department and the new University Hospital, now called The West Complex and commonly known as the multi-story building.

Also, Darden saw Walter N. Ridley become the first African American to receive a doctorate from the University in 1953, and C. Waller Barrett begin donating his extensive collection of the works of American authors to the library starting in 1949.

Edgar F. Shannon Jr. was elected president in 1959. During his tenure, he moved the University to national prominence, drawing renowned faculty here through the Center of Advanced Studies, which he created and which now bears his name, while coeducation and racial integration were implemented. Enrollment at the school swelled from 5,000 to 15,000 students.

Shannon’s era spanned the beginning and end of the Vietnam War. He presided over campus unrest generated by war protestors. After National Guard troops shot four students during a demonstration at Kent State University in Ohio in 1970, there were demonstrations at U.Va. To quell the unrest, Shannon addressed about 4,000 students on the Lawn on May 10, 1970, calling on the federal government to quickly end the war and address divisions within the country. Despite calls from alumni for him to be discharged and criticism from some faculty and political figures that he was not being firm enough with the students, the Board of Visitors backed Shannon and praised him for keeping the University open, preventing violence and preserving free speech.

Throughout his presidency, he continued to teach part-time and rejoined the faculty full-time in 1974.

Frank L. Hereford Jr. succeeded his friend Shannon as president, taking office in 1975. Hereford, who had started his undergraduate work at the University in 1940, earned his Ph.D. by age 23 and was a member of the Manhattan Project. He joined the physics faculty at age 26 and later held a series of administrative posts, including provost under Shannon.

One of Hereford’s enduring legacies was the first successful fundraising campaign. Determining that state funding for higher education would decrease, he raised $140 million from the private sector. The endowment jumped from $97 million to $280 million and endowed professorships increased from about 85 when he took office to more than 250 by 1993.

At the same time, black enrollment more than doubled, from 479 to 1,198. The Office of African-American Affairs was established, and student protests led to greater efforts to recruit black faculty.

Hereford also began the construction of the replacement hospital. To fund the project, he put in place a plan to issue $150 million in bonds.
Hereford relinquished office in 1985 and returned to research. Robert M. O’Neil succeeded him.

O’Neil had been president of the statewide University of Wisconsin System. A lawyer, he had clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan Jr., taught law and then served in a number of top-level university posts.

As president, O’Neil brought more diversity to the administration and faculty by recruiting more women and blacks for key posts, Gilliam said. O’Neil carried on the policies of his predecessors, but also “advanced his own agenda grounded in individual rights and the concept of broadly-based participation in all that the University does,” Casteen said.

O’Neil stepped down in 1990 to head the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression and to teach at the Law School.

The University’s current president, John T. Casteen III, succeeded him in office. Casteen, who holds three degrees in English from U.Va., taught at the University and served as dean of admission from 1975 to 1982. After being Virginia’s secretary of education from 1982 to 1985, he took the helm of the University of Connecticut, a post he left to return to U.Va.
Casteen said he is constantly aware of his predecessors.

“To work in the context of what these six predecessors valued and what they did to embed these values in the University is at the same time invigorating and monitory,” Casteen said. “[I] think about them every day — walk where they walked, sleep where they slept … receive students and faculty and the community in places they inhabited and shaped.”

During his administration so far, Casteen has overseen a major revamping of the University’s administrative and governance structures, one of the largest capital campaigns ever undertaken, significant improvements in academic programs and major expansions of the University’s physical facilities. Currently there are $785.8 million in construction projects either under way or in the planning and design stages, including expanding the South Lawn Project, a new arena on Massie Road, a new arts precinct and an ambitious expansion of the Medical Center complex.

Casteen also is presiding over the largest fund-raising campaign in the University’s history, with a $3 billion goal, which will be officially launched next year and end in 2011.


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of the University of Virginia

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