Friday, June 12, 2009

A Sad Day For Wahoos Everywhere

President John Casteen is retiring next summer. Here's his letter, a piece that I think finely encapsulates much of what UVA has meant to many of us:

Dear fellow members of our University community:

For several months, the Rector and Visitors and I have discussed how best to manage my retirement from the position of President. The issues are complex, both because I have served longer than most presidents do and because the Board will eventually need also to find successors for several of our senior administrators and managers who have worked with me, some since as early as the late 1960s.

As a result of these discussions, and with full support for the Board as it prepares for and conducts the search for my successor, Betsy and I have decided, and I have informed the Rector and Vice Rector, that I will stand down at the end of July 2010, somewhat more than a year from now. I am now 65. When the time comes for me to go, I will be 66, and I will have served as president here for fully 20 years, and previously at Connecticut for five years -- a quarter century, all told.

These 19, soon to be 20, years feel today like a very short time. My work and friendships with the University's faculty and staff, students (and their parents), alumni, and other supporters are as energizing today as when I took on these duties in August of 1990. These years have been magical times for me -- years of supporting and admiring excellence in faculty work, of rediscovering the University's original mission as we have come to understand it for our time, and perhaps also for the next generation, of hard and exciting work full of satisfactions that have come of observing the maturation and then the adult successes of well over 100,000 new Wahoos, young and old.

It has been our privilege as a family to live in and watch our children grow and reach adulthood in what I have come to see as the grandest and happiest of American homes in the most exciting and inspirational of all American villages -- this one conceived as America's center for learning. Relationships with women and men who believe in and sustain our students and their University have been at the center of my and our lives. And the greatest of all these privileges has been planning and building what I believe is one of the world's great universities, a university that was in its beginning and is now one of our Republic's cornerstones.

I came here as a student in 1961 filled with awe that this majestic place would accept and teach me. Despite adult occupations that showed me other places and other forms of the opportunities that learning opens up, my thoughts and aspirations always returned to the Rotunda, the Lawn, the Library, to the sounds of students singing and laughing and chattering while walking along the Corner, across the Grounds toward libraries and dorms and up and down Rugby Road, of crowds at football and basketball (and suddenly now baseball!) games, to the calming murmurs that one hears in the reading rooms and lounges where faculty members and students carry out the work of learning -- a special pleasure that belongs to persons who lead their lives within the University.

To come here as president, to work these 20 years in good times and bad, to be surrounded by family and friends and many generous colleagues, to have a part in making our University the global force that it now is, to share this work and place with Betsy and our children -- these have been the substance and privileges of my life here. Ending this chapter of our lives is not an easy thing, and yet a time to step aside to make way for others comes for all of us, and to me. I am profoundly grateful for these years.

I look forward to this next year of work with the University's women and men, and to exchanging greetings with all who come to the alumni, parent, and other events that have been such agreeable parts of my life since 1990. Thank you for your many kindnesses during the last two decades, for your generosity to the University and to my family and me, and for your commitment to the well-being of the young women and men who come here to "drink the cup of knowledge and fraternize with us."

With you, I look forward to applauding and greeting the University's eighth president when she or he is selected, and then I shall look forward also to returning to the life and work of a faculty member.

John Casteen

June 12, 2009

No comments:

Newer Post Older Post Home