Former Rector Josh Darden, 77, dies
University leader left mark as student, Board member, fund raiser
Joshua P. Darden Jr., a former member of the Board of Visitors and former Rector of the University, passed away Wednesday at the age of 77.
Darden served eight years as a member of the Board of Visitors from 1982 to 1990, and a three years as the University’s rector from 1987 to 1990. He was also chaired the Campaign for the University of Virginia, a massive fundraising effort in the mid-1990s, for its first four years.
Darden was the nephew of Colgate W. Darden, Jr., who served as both governor of Virginia and president of the University, and after whom the University’s graduate business school is named.
Leonard Sandridge, senior advisor to the Board of Visitors and former executive vice president of the University, said Darden made all of his projects a team effort and was open to hearing the ideas of everyone with whom he worked.
“He was a collaborative person,” Sandridge said. “He did not do it in a commanding style. … He wanted people to understand why we needed to do something.”
Sandridge, who worked with Darden extensively during his tenure at the University, said Darden was focused on his goals, but open to new ideas.
“He was concise and precise in what he wanted,” Sandridge said. “But if he learned new information, he could accept that and process that.” He added that Darden was deeply involved in athletics during his time as an University undergraduate.
Alexander Gilliam, University historian and former Board secretary, said Darden was an influential figure on Grounds even as an undergraduate. Gilliam and Darden attended the College at the same time.
“He was sort of a neat guy to be around,” Gilliam said. “Everybody liked him.”
Gilliam also worked with Darden on the Campaign for the University, and praised Darden’s contributions to the project. Darden helped to compose a script for campaign stops, in which he would read a “letter” that he composed to Thomas Jefferson assuring him of the progress that the University has made since its early days.
Darden’s leadership and contributions to the community extended as far as Norfolk, Va., where Darden carried on his family’s tradition of serving the hometown community.
“He was active in all sorts of civic things around Norfolk,” Gilliam said. “I can’t emphasize [enough] his sense of civic responsibility.”
Gilliam and Sandridge both credited Darden’s lasting legacy to his commitment to tasks completion and group input.
“He was a very effective person and a very decent person,” Gilliam said. “He was clearly competent. You knew that Josh knew what he was talking about when he started talking about these projects.”
“We talk a lot about what a U.Va. student is and what a graduate University stands for,” Sandridge said. “If there was ever a gold standard on what is that kind of individual is, Josh Darden is that model.”