University of Richmond Update

November 2018

Dear Members of the University Community,

As Thanksgiving approaches, we often hear the common sentiment that we owe it to ourselves to pause and reflect on the many wonderful relationships and opportunities we enjoy. Indeed, that is one of the greatest gifts of Thanksgiving — the reminder to ground ourselves again in the things that really matter — our family and friends, our colleagues, and our communities.

As Spiders, we know that we are part of a special community. We combine high expectations with exceptional support for one another. Our remarkable accomplishments are more meaningful because we know that they arise from a deep and long-held belief in the transformative power of education. It forms not only who we are, but also how we, in turn, help others tap into what is within them to become the scholars, professionals, entrepreneurs, artists, and leaders they want to be.

Spiders helping Spiders

This Thanksgiving week, we are wrapping up a unique and specific fundraising effort to support current students who will face unexpected challenges. Consider, for example, a student who lands an interview with a dream employer, but who can neither afford to travel to the interview nor afford to purchase the professional attire necessary for making a good impression. Or consider a student far from home who cannot afford to pay for travel when a family tragedy suddenly occurs. These unforeseen needs arise every year.

And while these obstacles may seem small, they can have a dramatic impact on a student’s long-term success. Our current fundraising effort, called Spiders Helping Spiders, addresses this very real need among our students with solutions as simple as a train ticket or a clothing allowance. It also wonderfully illustrates the power that every gift, no matter its size, can have in the life of a student. As I write, more than 250 individuals and families have already responded. I hope you will join us in this special effort.

Academic excellence

Our faculty continue their dedicated work of balancing highly personal attention to students with remarkable scholarly productivity. One of the most recent examples is behavioral neuroscientist Kelly Lambert, who has just released her fifth book, Well-Grounded: The Neurobiology of Rational Decisions, published by Yale University Press. Some of the research on which it draws is conducted in the Gottwald Science Center with the assistance of undergraduates, who learn the rigors and joy of scientific discovery by working alongside her every semester.

Faculty are also increasingly sharing their work and perspectives through a new and innovative news site called The Conversation. Through this platform, faculty members can share knowledge and perspectives from their disciplines with the general public. Each piece posted to the site is distributed by the Associated Press and available to news outlets across the country and around the world. A half dozen faculty have already authored pieces for the service, including political science professor Dan Palazzolo, whose recent article analyzing the midterm elections has been picked up by more than 30 outlets nationally.

The excellent students we recruit to be part of each incoming class also continue to excel once on campus. Four students — Katrina Hayes-Macaluso, ’19, Anna Moorhead, ’19, Chloe McKinney, ’20, and Ava Clarke, ’20 — worked alongside researchers in the Digital Scholarship Lab to help launch “Electing the House of Representatives,” which offers the public a dynamic way to explore patterns in America’s democratic landscape across time. This online tool is the eighth map of a larger project called American Panorama, a digital atlas for the 21st century to which dozens of students have contributed since its launch in 2015.

Students from the Robins School of Business recently took first place in the National Team Selling Competition. These five Spiders — Lily Howlett, ’19, Paige Moynihan, ’19, Torey Walsh, ’19, Dejon Brissett, ’19, and Xavier McCormick, ’20 — competed against students from 23 schools and beat out Michigan State and Indiana in the final round. Their coach, marketing professor Jeff Carlson, described them as the most competitive team he has ever coached.

Alumni engagement

It has been my pleasure this fall to host Presidential Receptions in Atlanta, Baltimore, Charlottesville, and Washington, D.C. More than 350 alumni and guests turned out for these evenings with fellow Spiders. The strong attendance at every stop has been matched by alumni pride and the shared Spider spirit. I’m most grateful for the question I hear so often at these events: How can we help? This question demonstrates the commitment of our graduates to the common goal of continuing to strengthen the University and make Richmond a great choice for many of the nation’s most talented students. I look forward to upcoming receptions in Northern New Jersey, the Carolina Triangle, and Dallas. If you are living in these areas, I hope you will join me.

A University milestone

During Homecoming Weekend, we commemorated a milestone in African-American student experiences at the University. Fifty years ago, in the fall of 1968, three students — Mr. Barry Greene, Ms. Madieth Malone, and Ms. Isabelle Thomas LeSane — began their studies at Richmond and went on to become the first African-American alumni of our undergraduate program. All three of them honored the University with their presence at our Homecoming event, where they also met with students to reflect on their experiences.

At the same event, Ed Gates, ’02, and Rasheeda Perry, ’03 — representing the UR Alumni Association and the UR Black Alumni Network — honored Dr. Tina Cade, Associate Vice President for Student Development and Director of Multicultural Affairs. Ms. Perry put it best when she described Dr. Cade as a “force that must be recognized and acknowledged as a cornerstone and catalyst of change” at the University of Richmond.

This University is steeped in a long and often inspirational history. However, if we are to be honest about our past, we must acknowledge that we, as an institution, have ignored for too long and left out too often important pieces of our story. For this reason, I was pleased to announce the creation of the Presidential Commission on University History and Identity, which will be co-chaired by President Emeritus Ed Ayers and Dr. Lauranett Lee. I have tasked the Commission with exploring how we preserve and record our history, re-examining our past to identify narratives that have been left out of our institutional history, and recommending ways to communicate our history inclusively. This examination of our past will help us define who we want to be as we continue to grow as an institution that constantly strives to become the best it can be for everyone in our community.


The women’s cross country team won its third championship in four years when five Spiders placed in the top 13 at this year’s Atlantic 10 Cross Country Championship. The conference named Head Coach Lori Taylor its Coach of the Year. The team went on to compete in the NCAA Southeast Regionals, where it placed eighth out of 33 teams. Congratulations to them on a terrific season. I’m excited that men’s and women’s basketball have begun their seasons and look forward to seeing some of you at the Robins Center as we support our Spiders.

While a point of pride, success in competition is only a partial measure of the success of our athletes. Our student-athletes also make us proud with their academic performance. Earlier this month, we honored 59 student-athletes for their academic accomplishments at the Scholar-Athlete Breakfast, including the top scholars for each team and the teams with the top cumulative GPAs. Men’s cross country earned the Men’s Team Academic Award for the third straight year, and women’s golf — three-time league champions — earned the Women’s Team Academic Award. We take tremendous pride in all of the successes of our scholar-athletes.


Earlier this semester, we announced a significant step forward in our commitment to become a more sustainable campus. Through a power purchase agreement, the University is creating a 130-acre solar array. The 47,000-panel Spider Solar array will produce 41,000 megawatt-hours of solar energy, neutralizing 19,720 metric tons of carbon annually. This amount is equivalent to the annual electricity use of nearly 5,000 homes. The project reduces UR’s greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 60 percent while increasing the state’s solar capacity. When it comes online, we will become the first institution of higher education in the southeast to match 100% of its electricity needs with solar energy. The move reflects our commitments to both environmental and fiscal stewardship because it simultaneously minimizes our exposure to energy markets.

Spider Solar builds on an earlier pioneering decision in 2016, when the University developed Virginia’s first solar array project, constructing a 749-panel solar array on the roof of one of UR’s many LEED Gold certified buildings, the Weinstein Center for Recreation. Developments such as these are a major reason that Richmond is being recognized increasingly as a higher education leader in the area of sustainability. For the ninth consecutive year, UR is included in the 2018 “Guide to 399 Green Colleges” edition.

Reach and reputation

The University is excelling in a host of national rankings as our national profile continues to rise. For example, last month Money magazine ranked the University of Richmond the No. 6 college in the country for business majors. In September, the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education ranked Richmond No. 4 for diversity and affordability in its 2018 Sustainable Campus Index. College Consensus named us one of the nation’s top 10 colleges doing great things, citing the Richmond Guarantee as a particularly valuable innovation.

While we’re pleased to see the University continue to fare well in these rankings, their real value lies in how they reflect Richmond’s growing appeal to prospective students. In last year’s admission cycle, we had a record number of applicants, and our incoming class was academically exceptional. The current cycle is tracking to be yet another record year. As of Nov. 4, applications for the first Early Decision deadline are up nearly eight percent over last year and Early Action applications are up more than 13 percent. Students who fit our academic profile have many options, and these figures demonstrate that more and more they are choosing Richmond.

Leadership update

Earlier this semester, Robins School of Business Dean Nancy Bagranoff notified us of her intention to step down from her position as of June 30, 2019, and return to the faculty as professor of accounting. I am very grateful for her ambitious, student-centered leadership during her long service as dean, which began in 2010. During her tenure, she has grown the number of students the School of Business serves and expanded its academic programs. She guided the school through two successful reviews by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. She also led the launch of multiple Executive-in-Residence positions, the opening of new facilities such as Queally Hall and the iLab, and the creation of a variety of new innovative programs including the C-Suite and Executive Speaker Series, an undergraduate entrepreneurship minor, and a business analytics concentration. She has also been an effective representative of the University in multiple leadership roles for the American Accounting Association, including as president, and as chair of the board of ChamberRVA.

Dean Bagranoff will continue to serve as dean through the end of the academic year, during which time we will conduct the search for her successor.

125 years of the Spider

Our Spider Pride runs deep. Throughout this year, we are celebrating 125 years of the Spider, an identity that transcends our sports teams. The Spider symbolizes not just who we cheer for, but who we are — a University every bit as unique as this beloved symbol.

As we celebrate this community, we are also appealing to Spiders to help us demonstrate our pride by raising participation in the annual fund. In addition to supporting students through programs such as the aforementioned Spiders Helping Spiders, strong annual giving communicates alumni pride in the University and confidence in its future.

We know this pride is there. Alumni have made more than 285,000 gifts to Richmond over the last 30 years, and nearly 40 percent of alumni have made at least one gift during the last five years. As I am telling alumni when I visit with them nationally, our goal as we celebrate the 125th year of the Spider is to raise our annual giving rate to 25 percent of all alumni. If you haven’t already joined us in this effort, I hope you will consider doing so in this season of Thanksgiving.

May the coming holiday season bring you love and warmth as you gather with family and friends to reflect on the many joys in our lives, and in the community of Spiders worldwide.

Best wishes,

Ronald A. Crutcher