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Interim President Chosen for University of Virginia

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – The University of Virginia’s Board of Visitors chose the dean of the university’s undergraduate business school early Tuesday to become the interim president upon the departure of the ousted Teresa Sullivan.

The board voted 12-1 with two abstentions to approve McIntire School of Commerce Dean Carl Zeithaml to serve as interim president after Sullivan’s Aug. 15 departure. The decision came shortly before 3 a.m., nearly 12 hours after the meeting began.

Zeithaml specializes in strategic management and has been McIntire’s dean since 1997. He spent 11 years on the faculty of the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School.

“I realize that it is a very difficult time for many people within our community, but I look forward to working with our faculty, students, staff, alumni and University leaders to move U.Va. forward,” Zeithaml said in a statement.

Rector Helen Dragas said a special committee to nominate a permanent president will form soon. She said the board hopes to engage faculty, staff and alumni in the selection process. She and the board had been roundly criticized for the lack of explanation and transparency in calling for Sullivan’s resignation.

The panel never formally voted on Sullivan’s departure or fully explained it, touching off a furor among faculty, administrators, students, donors and alumni. Dragas announced the resignation June 10.

Board member Heywood Fralin cast the lone “no” vote, with A. Macdonald Caputo and Robert Hardie abstaining. Board member Glynn Key had left before the official vote.

Fralin said after the meeting that he had concerns about the process by which Sullivan was removed. But he said U.Va. will survive the turmoil because “it’s a great university.”

The Faculty Senate and other groups had urged the board to retain Sullivan and for Dragas and Vice Rector Mark Knighton to step down, but neither of those things happened.

Board member Hunter Craig praised Sullivan’s ability to attract talented administrators, including Provost John Simon and chief operating officer Michael Strine. Craig also called for Gov. Bob McDonnell, the legislature and the Board of Visitors to allow for the appointment of a faculty member to the board, a move sought by the Faculty Senate.

Sullivan told the board Monday that she has worked to adopt necessary changes at U.Va. in light of financial challenges to public higher education. She said she and the board apparently disagreed with “how that change should occur and at what pace.”

“I’ve been described as an incrementalist. It is true,” she said, according to remarks she provided to reporters after she spoke in the closed session. “Sweeping action may be gratifying and may create the aura of strong leadership, but its unintended consequences may lead to costs that are too high to bear.”

She also said other universities were planning to poach U.Va. faculty members because of the turmoil in Charlottesville.

“Corporate-style, top-down leadership does not work in a great university,” she said. “Sustained change with buy-in does work.”

About 2,000 people gathered outside the Rotunda to support Sullivan and criticize the Board of Visitors. She was met with thunderous cheers and serenaded with U.Va.’s school anthem “The Good Ole Song” as she walked back to her office after addressing the board.

George Cohen, a law professor and chairman of U.Va.’s Faculty Senate, declined to comment after the board adjourned.

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