Edward L. Ayers has announced his intention to step down as president of the University of Richmond on June 30, 2015.

As he noted in a letter to the campus community, 2015 will see the conclusion of the University’s strategic plan, “The Richmond Promise,” and the Fulfilling the Promise campaign. “As I reflect on all that we have accomplished together, I have decided that these culminations provide a natural conclusion to my term as president,” he wrote. “Next year is a fitting one for a university transition as we finish important work.”

Expanding opportunity through advances in access and affordability, and in diversity and inclusivity, lies at the heart of “The Richmond Promise.” Its development and implementation during Ayers’ tenure set in place a unified, long-range vision of the university that built on a foundation of excellence to guide campus development in every way.

The remarkable impact of “The Richmond Promise” is evident across campus in areas as diverse as curriculum, facilities and student life:

  • Undergraduate applications have grown by nearly 50 percent—from approximately 6,600 for the fall 2007 entering class, to more than 9,900 for the fall 2014 entering class—while the quality of the entering class has improved by every academic measure;
  • The number of U.S. students of color has increased by 114 percent in the entering class and international students have doubled, and the university has maintained and strengthened its commitment to access and affordability by doubling the number and percentage of Pell-eligible students;
  • Investments in competitive faculty and staff salaries allowed the university to continue to recruit excellent new faculty even when other institutions faced challenges due to the economic downturn; among new tenure and tenure-track faculty recruited since 2008, one in four are faculty of color and half are women;
  • The commitment to inclusivity is strengthened by a variety of initiatives, including the establishment of new student organizations, the Cultural Advisors program and an LGBTQ Spiders alumni group; expansion of the Common Ground staff; additions to the Chaplaincy including the university’s first campus rabbi, expanded programming for the Muslim community and a new Multifaith Student Council;
  • The integration of the office of alumni relations and career development center has leveraged the worldwide web of Spiders to assist students in preparing for and securing internships and jobs;
  • Progress on Phase I of the comprehensive 10-year Campus Master Plan has resulted in significant enhancements to academic facilities through the creation of the international center, business school addition and law school renovation; to student life through renovation and new construction of residence halls and construction of the Student Activity Center; to athletics facilities through the on-campus stadium and renovations to the Robins Center and intramural and sport club field space—while three historic buildings were placed on the National Register;
  • Generous financial support of the Fulfilling the Promise capital campaign has funded priorities including the distinctive UR Summer Fellowships program;
  • The university’s endowment has continued to be among the best performing in the nation and surpassed the $2 billion mark; even during the recent economic downturn, Standard & Poor’s raised the university’s already strong bond rating from AA to AA+; and
  • The university’s connections to the city have strengthened through significantly increased numbers of community-based learning programs, endowment of Partners in the Arts and establishment of UR Downtown.

 “The university is stronger today by every possible measure—in academic excellence, fiscal health, national and international reputation, and accessibility—because of President Ayers’ thoughtful leadership and vision,” says Charles A. Ledsinger Jr., rector of the university’s Board of Trustees. “As you can imagine, the board accepted his decision with disappointment, but also with deep gratitude for his outstanding leadership over the past seven years.”

Ayers will continue his scholarly work as a member of the University of Richmond faculty. Nationally recognized for both his scholarship and teaching—he was awarded the National Humanities Medal at the White House by President Barack Obama and was named Professor of the Year by The Carnegie Foundation and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education—he will expand his efforts to make history accessible to as many audiences and in as many ways as possible. These efforts will include his ongoing work with the university’s Digital Scholarship Lab, the opportunity to again write books, and deeper engagement with public history projects, such as his nationally syndicated public radio program, “Backstory with the American History Guys.” He also serves as founding chair of the American Civil War Museum and will continue to teach Richmond students.

The university will launch a national search for his successor in the coming academic year.

More information about today’s announcement and Ayers’ tenure as president is available at www.richmond.edu.

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