Board chooses female rector
Members unanimously select Helen Dragas as vice rector Monday; Darden alumna will succeed Wynne in July
Helen Dragas will become the first female rector of the University's Board of Visitors in July 2011.
The Board unanimously elected Dragas to the position of vice rector Monday afternoon, marking her as the designated successor to John Wynne, whose two-year term began in July 2009. Dragas, who was appointed to the Board in 2008 by Gov. Tim Kaine, will assume her responsibilities as rector July 1, 2011.
Previously, Daniel Abramson, a former Board member from Alexandria, Va., had been unanimously elected as vice rector in 2009, making him the original choice for Wynne's replacement in 2011. Plans changed, however, when Gov. Bob McDonnell chose not to re-appoint Abramson, who contributed to the political campaigns of Kaine, Mark Warner and other Democrats.
Despite this change, Dragas expressed her commitment to carry out her new duties when the time comes.
"I am humbled by the confidence [the Board] placed in me and will do everything I can to live up to their trust," Dragas said.
Dragas graduated from the College in 1984 and went on to earn her Master of Business Administration degree at the Darden School. She is currently the chief executive officer of The Dragas Companies, a Virginia Beach-based mortgage and construction firm.
Yesterday, Wynne also appointed Dragas as chair of the Finance Committee for the next year. As head of this committee, Dragas will play a significant role in approving the annual budget and recommending how to set tuition rates, student fees and other student charges to the Board. Dragas will officially address tuition rates in the spring.
One major challenge facing the Committee and Board during the coming months is the issue of stagnant salary rates, said Leonard Sandridge, executive vice president and chief operating officer.
"Since the 2006-07 year, we have not had salary increases authorized," Sandridge said. At other institutions across the nation, however, this has not been the case. As a result, the University's average salary for full-time instructional faculty members dropped to 29th place among the association's member institutions for the 2009-10 academic year - nine spots below its placement for the 2006-07 year.
"We have been fortunate for the fact that we have faculty who are very understanding and loyal to this University, but we need to address this as soon as we can," Sandridge said.
Each Board member is appointed by the governor for a four-year term and is eligible for an additional appointment of four more years. Dragas' term will end in July 2012, at which point she will be considered for reappointment.