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Harvard dean James E. Ryan named as U.Va.’s next president

Board of Visitors expected to approve decision Friday

<p>James E. Ryan will be the University's ninth president.&nbsp;</p>

James E. Ryan will be the University's ninth president. 

The Board of Visitors elected James E. Ryan, dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, as the next president of the University Friday morning. He will succeed Teresa Sullivan to become the University’s ninth president.

Ryan is a familiar face at the University, having graduated from the School of Law in 1992 at the top of his class and taught at the Law School from 1998 to 2013. While there, he was the Matheson and Morgenthau Distinguished Professor of Law, and also founded the school’s Program in Law and Public Service. He served as an academic associate dean from 2005 to 2009.

After the announcement of his election, Ryan delivered some remarks from a podium on the steps of the Rotunda and condemned the violence that took place during recent events in Charlottesville on Aug. 11 and 12. 

“Like all of you I was heartbroken and horrified to see U.Va. and Charlottesville invaded by groups of white supremacists and neo-Nazis, and I join those who have condemned this violent display of hatred,” Ryan said. “But condemning bigotry and anti-Semitism and racism is in many ways the easy part — the hard part which you’re all facing now is what to do in response both in the short and longer terms.”

Ryan said he was heartened by the progress being made in the aftermath of these events even though it might seem “messy and a version of two steps forward, one step back.”

Ryan also talked about how he considers the University as his home — the place where he met his wife, taught classes and raised his children. 

“I’m honestly thrilled and genuinely honored by the opportunity to serve my alma mater and the institution where I taught for 15 years,” Ryan said. 

A presidential search committee was formed in February after Sullivan announced in January she would be stepping down from the position once her contract expires in the summer of 2018. 

As a part of the search, the committee conducted a survey in which respondents noted the next president should have experience leading complex organizations and a background in academia. The public engagement process also included forums and discussions with students in dorms.  

Former rector Emeritus William H. Goodwin Jr., who co-chaired the search committee, said it was a unanimous decision by the Board to elect Ryan as the next president. 

“What began in earnest at the beginning of the year to attract an extraordinary leader as we embark on a third century, has concluded today with the selection of a person we believe is the perfect leader for this institution at this precise time in its history,” Goodwin said.  

Ryan told reporters after his remarks that he was approached during the search process.

“I was approached,” Ryan said. “I did not apply.”

Ryan’s term as president will not begin until 2018 after Sullivan’s contract expires.