Prior new chancellor at Wise
By Jane Meade-Dean
With an audience of more than 800 faculty, staff, students, alumni and friends looking on, David J. Prior was formally installed Tuesday as the seventh chancellor of The University of Virginia’s College at Wise.
“We at the College will continue to honor our traditions as we chart a course for a prosperous future,” Prior said. “We’ll continue to celebrate our history, our founders, our builders and all members of the College family as we strive for excellence.”
In his inaugural address, Prior, who began his duties as chancellor on Sept. 1, 2005, set forth his vision for further enhancing the student experience through additional international and multicultural study options, greater opportunities for independent student research with faculty mentors and a renewed emphasis on developing a full range of communication skills.
“As a liberal arts college, ensuring a strong liberal arts foundation for all students, regardless of major, is more than academic rhetoric, it is a compact we enter into with our students,” Prior said.
U.Va. Rector Thomas F. Farrell II administered the oath of office and presented Chancellor Prior, a U.Va. alumnus, with the College medallion.
Chancellor Prior “brings to his office the spirit, the strength of character and the dedication required to lead the College into its next era of expansion and achievement of new levels of excellence,” Farrell said. “Thomas Jefferson would have approved.”
U.Va. President John T. Casteen III delivered the keynote address, comparing the College’s founding 50 years ago to a “beacon that drew the young people of Southwest Virginia to the light and learning offered here.”
“What was true in 1954 is equally true today,” Casteen said. “This College is a vehicle of hope and opportunity. And in the future, the College will continue its tradition of service to Southwest Virginia while also looking toward broader horizons.
“Today, we install a new chancellor who will guide this College into the second half of its first century,” Casteen said. “David Prior is prepared to meet the charge of those who recognize in him the experience and abilities that will make the College become one of the best public colleges in the nation.”
In the last four years, the College’s enrollment has increased by 34 percent to a record high of 1,900. The campus has been transformed
during the last decade with the addition of several new buildings, including the C. Bascom Slemp Student Center, the Science Center and a picturesque lake.
The College’s endowment has grown to more than $30 million, a total expected to climb with the launch of a major fundraising campaign in the fall.
Prior succeeds Ernest H. Ern, who served a one-year appointment as chancellor following the resignation of former chancellor Steven H. Kaplan, who left the post to become president of the University of New Haven.
A native of Michigan, Prior earned an A.B. in biology from Olivet College in 1965 and a master’s degree in animal physiology and biochemistry from Central Michigan University in 1968. He earned a Ph.D. in biology (neurophysiology) from the University of Virginia in 1972 and was a post-doctoral fellow in neurobiology at Princeton University from 1972 to 1973.
Prior has a record of long and successful experience as a scholar and administrator of liberal arts colleges and regional public colleges.
Delegates representing 43 colleges and universities across the nation participated in Tuesday’s inauguration ceremony. Secretary of Education Thomas Morris and five former chancellors of the College also attended.
Chancellor Emeritus Joseph Smiddy was joined by former chancellors Jim Knight, Jay Lemons, George Culbertson and Ernest Ern.