On Friday, Sept. 27, President Edward Ayers spoke at length on the recent past and future of University of Richmond in Camp Concert Hall in the Modlin Center for the Arts. A large crowd of parents and students gathered to hear the presentation during Family Weekend.
The speech mainly concerned the fulfillment of The Richmond Promise, an ongoing strategic plan for the university to raise both the academic and overall caliber of the school while maintaining the school’s traditions and connection to the city of Richmond. The year 2014 marks the end of the plan, which was started in 2009, and it has been considered an absolute success.
With a lack of notes or prompts, the president spoke for nearly an hour. Ayers opened his speech focusing on the recent 2013-2014 U.S. News & World Report college ranking list, which listed Richmond 25th for liberal arts colleges, two slots higher than the previous year.
He joked, saying, “I don’t believe in [the rankings] at all, except when they help us.” The school had risen 15 positions in five years on the same list. The president said he was proud of this ranking, and believed that it reflected the integrity and work that the administration and faculty have accomplished.
Ayers shared several statistics concerning the school’s progress. For example, 6,600 students applied to the university six years ago, but 10,000 applied for this academic school year. The statistic that the president said he was most proud of was that U.S. News & World Report ranked the university as number two for most innovative and promising changes in the areas of academics, faculty and student life.
However, Ayers also said he believed the school was doing better in certain ways that the rankings do not reflect. One example is that the school has doubled the number of students of color attending the university in six years, he said.
Another is that the average student is graduating with less debt than one who attends a public Virginia school.
The president finished his remarks by speaking about the importance of long-term vision, and said “One of my major goals is to prevent 18-year-olds from putting themselves into a box too early.”
The speech was well received by the parents and other audience members. TJ Benedict, a freshman, said, “President Ayers gave a wonderful speech that was witty and insightful.”
Contact reporter Richard Horan at firstname.lastname@example.org