Names New Provost
Block, U.Va. VP for Research and Public Service and Renowned Biologist,
to Become Provost Sept. 1
June 6, 2001--
Gene D. Block, University of Virginia vice president for research
and public service and an internationally respected biologist known
for his research on biological rhythms, today was named University
vice president and provost.
will become the University's chief academic officer, responsible
for oversight of U.Va.'s 10 schools, as well as the University Library,
the Bayly Art Museum, and the University's three residential colleges.
He will take over Sept.1 from Peter W. Low, provost since 1994,
who announced last September that he planned to step down at the
end of the academic year to return to teaching at the University's
President John T. Casteen III, in making today's announcement, praised
Block for his "strong commitment to public service, his excellent
judgment, his dedication to core academic values, and his profound
background as a researcher and his years in the classroom give him
an intimate understanding of the challenges our faculty face every
day," Casteen said. "His past eight years as a University administrator
add a high level of understanding of University-wide needs and opportunities."
closely with Casteen, his cabinet and the deans of each school,
Block will be responsible for shaping academic policy; advancing
the recommendations of Virginia 2020, the University's long-term
planning initiative; creating University-wide strategic plans; and
maintaining the continued excellence of U.Va.'s departments and
schools and the ongoing strength of the University's libraries.
In addition, he will serve as principal staff for the Board of Visitors'
Committee on Educational Policy, which governs all of the University's
the expectations that Casteen has laid out for Block are the "cultivation
of great deans and department heads, the fostering of excellence
in our faculty and the superb education of our students."
am honored by the selection committee's and the President's confidence
in me," Block said. "Although at the moment the assignment seems
daunting, I will take over a very talented and well-run office.
Peter Low is a friend and mentor, and I am confident that we will
have a smooth transition."
who joined the University faculty in 1978 as an assistant professor,
became a full professor in 1989 and founding director of the National
Science Foundation's Center for Biological Timing in 1991.
job was the beginning of what Block calls his "unplanned transition"
from scientist to administrator. Science and teaching had been lifelong
passions he said he never dreamed of leaving. But in 1993, he was
tapped to fill the newly created position of vice provost for research,
becoming the University's principal research adviser and advocate.
This role took him beyond scientific research into all aspects of
University research and the administration of more than $200 million
in research funding each year. While he remained linked to his own
research, there was no turning back from administrative duties.
leadership is a unique and interesting challenge requiring consensus
building, identification of appropriate incentives and development
of creative opportunities that engage faculty participation," Block
said. "Playing a role in creating large multi-institutional efforts
has been particularly rewarding. The provost's position extends
the canvas beyond research to the entire academic mission of the
University. It allows me to more fully realize the dual missions
of the University, teaching and research, both of which I have a
passion for. Importantly, it allows me to grow intellectually."
has begun to outline his agenda for the next few years, including
the challenges and opportunities ahead. His plan includes:
the Virginia 2020 commission recommendations in a smart, timely
and effective manner;
a larger pool of women and minority academic administrators poised
to take on top leadership positions;
financial resources to build new space and renovate existing facilities
devoted to the academic mission;
the University's attractiveness to the very best graduate students;
an appropriate balance between building excellence within traditional
academic disciplines and capitalizing on opportunities to create
new interdisciplinary institutes and centers.
distinguishes itself as being an 'undergraduate-friendly' research
institution," Block said. "By maintaining our excellence and commitment
to undergraduate education -- at the same time expanding our capabilities
as a great research institution -- we have the opportunity to be
unique in offering an elite undergraduate collegiate experience
while providing substantial opportunities for gifted graduate and
1998, Casteen again asked Block to expand his duties, adding the
public-service mission of the University to his responsibilities
and naming him vice president for research and public service. At
the time, Casteen said, "Mr. Block has a two-part assignment. One
part is to oversee the building up of our science programs. The
other is to find ways to ensure that we deliver products of tangible
value to the state, and that we do that in a way that everybody
understands and identifies with the University of Virginia."
then, Block and his staff have worked hand-in-hand with the Virginia
2020 Public Service Planning Commission to establish the University
as a leader in public service initiatives. One important result
has been Outreach Virginia, a comprehensive, online guide to public
service programs at U.Va.
Van Lengen, dean of the School of Architecture and chair of the
provost search committee, had words of praise for her new boss.
are so pleased that Gene Block has accepted the offer to lead the
academic branch of the University as its next provost. As vice president
for research and public service, Gene successfully led and developed
an ambitious research program for the University," Van Lengen said.
"His intimate knowledge of the College and of the medical and scientific
branches of the University provides substantial background to address
the many challenges facing higher education. Gene's ability to engage
in intellectual discourse, his perceptive, fair-minded and interactive
nature, coupled with his very positive spirit, provide a powerful
framework for his new position. We expect his academic leadership
will continue to shape our growth toward a cohesive and exemplary
model of a public university."
of Monticello, N.Y., Block received his A.B. in psychology from
Stanford University in 1970, and a master's and a Ph.D. in psychology
from the University of Oregon. He was a postdoctoral fellow in neurobiology
at Stanford from 1975 to 1978, working in the lab of Donald Kennedy,
former president of Stanford, before joining the U.Va. faculty.
fall, Block, true to his roots, will team teach a lecture class
on biological clocks with biology department colleagues Michael
Menaker and Carla Green. "I do not plan to abandon my research program
or my teaching," Block said. "I believe it is important for academic
administrators to remain close to the core missions of the University,
and there is no better way than by direct participation."
THE UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA
is proud of its distinguished faculty. In 1825 at Thomas Jefferson's
University, eight faculty members greeted the first students. Like
their predecessors, today's faculty -- numbering 1,904 full-time
members -- were selected from some of the world's foremost universities.
10 schools include:
of Architecture, founded in 1851, present enrollment 532 students;
and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, founded in 1824,
present enrollment 10,573;
of Law, founded in 1824, present enrollment 1,108;
of Medicine, founded in 1824, present enrollment 545;
of Engineering and Applied Science, founded in 1836, present
School of Education, founded in 1905, present enrollment 1,005;
School of Commerce, founded in 1952, present enrollment 787;
Graduate School of Business Administration, founded in 1955, present enrollment
of Nursing, founded in 1901, present enrollment 168;
of Continuing and Professional Studies, first founded as a division in 1915, with
more than 30,000 citizens of the Commonwealth participating in
continuing education activities each year.
its 14th annual "America's Best Colleges" issue (Sept. 2000),
U.S. News & World Report ranked the University of Virginia
the nation's No. 1 public university in a tie with the University
of California-Berkeley. The two universities are ranked 20th among
all national universities, private and public.
ranked by U.S. News are the following University schools:
School, Graduate Programs, 6th;
of Law, 7th;
School of Commerce, 8th;
Graduate School of Business Administration, 15th;
of Nursing, Graduate Programs, 21st;
of Engineering and Applied Science, Undergraduate Programs,
of Engineering and Applied Science, Graduate Programs, 35th.
Carol Wood, (434) 924-6189