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Prenzel Takes on New Post, New Challenges

January 29, 1999 -- People can change. Just ask Dolly Prenzel.

She's in the midst of a lot of changes, not the least of which is a career shift from serving as the University's chief contracting officer to a redefined post as director of community relations. She officially began her new duties Jan. 1, and planned to move into her new office in Booker House Jan. 27.

"I felt the need for another challenge," Prenzel said recently from her half-packed, soon-to-be-former office in Carruthers Hall. "Thirty-two years in the same field is a long time."

Prenzel, 52, has been involved in purchasing for her entire professional life, first at Vanderbilt University in her native Nashville, then coming to U.Va. 18 years ago as director of purchasing. She was elevated to chief contracting officer in 1991.

Having one career does not mean Prenzel has been one-dimensional, however. She may be better known outside University financial circles for heading up the Combined Virginia Campaign (CVC), which benefits local United Way agencies. Under her leadership, the campaign has experienced huge growth, and she serves on both the local United Way board and on the state advisory committee for the campaign.

Prenzel's new post grew, indirectly, from her involvement with the CVC and the United Way.

One of her first moves upon arriving in Charlottesville was to volunteer with the Association for Retarded Citizens (ARC), an interest that grows from her family -- a younger brother is retarded. She served as a United Way "loaned executive" in the early 1990s, and earlier participated in the first class of the Leadership Charlottesville program.

"I learned a whole lot about the needs of the community," she said.

The University's community relations efforts were formerly handled by Elva Holland, who also headed the governmental relations unit. When Holland resigned to open a private law practice, she recommended the two functions be split. Nancy Nicoletto Rivers now handles governmental relations; Prenzel will report to Louise Dudley, director of University Relations.

"Having Dolly in this new position gives us someone who can be available full-time to think about and address community issues," Dudley said. "It's more than just a piece of someone's job.

"The contacts Dolly has made in the community over the years, particularly from her involvement in the Combined Virginia Campaign and her relationships with local businesses she's worked with as head of purchasing, gives her the beginning of a good network. She will be able to build on those relationships and others to expand the University's outreach to the community."

Prenzel already has a list of 26 initiatives she would like to launch in her new post. "That's a little bit overwhelming, I think," she said.

Generally, she hopes to encourage student, faculty and staff volunteerism in the community and continue the University's efforts at improving relations with surrounding neighborhoods.

She also has a strong interest in working with minority groups in the community, an interest that was heightened this fall by two experiences: working with a student intern and reading a book.

The intern, Arlette Jackson, a fourth-year African-American student who is a niece of NAACP Legal Defense Fund director and U.Va.'s 1998 Distinguished Alumna Elaine Jones, engaged Prenzel in a series of informal -- and sometimes heated -- discussions about the state of race relations that challenged some of her assumptions.

"I learned a lot," Prenzel said.

She also read David Halberstam's recent book, The Children, which examines the rise of the Civil Rights Movement in Nashville at the time she was growing up (and when Halberstam was writing for the Nashville Tennesseean).

"It altered me in a way I could not explain. It really has affected my life," Prenzel said.

Prenzel has long been active in the Women's Movement. She was a founding member of the Women Faculty and Professional Association; is an active member of FOCUS, a community women's center; co-chaired the U.Va. President's Committee on Women's Concerns for two years; and was the first female president in the 70-year history of the National Association of Educational Buyers, receiving its highest award for lifetime achievement in 1992.

She describes the transition to her new duties as "wrenching," but said she is eager to get down to business. "It's very exciting."

Dolly Prenzel can be reached at 924-1321 or via e-mail at

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: please contact the Office of University Relations at (804) 924-7116. Television reporters should contact the TV News Office at (804) 924-7550.
SOURCE: U.Va. News Services


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