University of Richmond Update

September 2019

Dear Members of the University Community,

Last semester, a group of college presidents and I sat captivated listening to renowned Harvard psychologist Howard Gardner present takeaways from his seven-year study on today’s college landscape. Like other presidents, I was alarmed — but not completely surprised — to learn that achieving mental wellness and a sense of belonging are the two greatest challenges facing university students. Yet, I was gratified that Richmond is ahead of the curve in preparing students to live happy, purposeful, and resilient lives. Indeed, thanks to the remarkable generosity of our alumni, we are one year away from completing our new Well-Being Center, which will include all campus health care in one location and encourage students to make healthful decisions proactively, from stress management to nutrition to sleep.

Of course, we know we have more work to do to build an inclusive community where students from diverse backgrounds, experiences, identities, and ideologies learn how to live and learn together in a way that is open and honest. And we are doing so not just for the sake of being inclusive, but because we know it helps ensure that talented students, faculty, and staff from all backgrounds see Richmond as a desirable place to live, work, and study.

This summer, we released Making Excellence Inclusive: University Report and Recommendations to propel our work forward. Consistent with the recommendations I received, I’ve appointed an interim senior administrative officer and a Universitywide council to accelerate our efforts to build a campus community that reflects the rich diversity of our nation and to cultivate an inclusive environment in which all can experience a sense of belonging.

Additionally, I have established a Freedom of Expression Task Force, chaired by constitutional law scholar Kurt Lash. The group’s charge is to develop a Freedom of Expression Statement rooted in our history, mission, and values that will guide the University of Richmond community going forward. Our goal is to codify our existing practice, which is to welcome a range of viewpoints. While some invited speakers bring our community face to face with divisive issues, at the University of Richmond we never disinvite speakers, unless we learn a speaker has incited violence in the past. Rather, we always hold up the right to free expression, even when what we hear knocks us off balance.

Ultimately, we aspire to be a skilled intercultural community in which all members benefit from the rich diversity of our campus and achieve meaningful understanding across cultural and ideological boundaries. Having conversations about our differences can be deeply uncomfortable at times. But by modeling substantive and civil disagreement, we hope to help our students better understand how to learn from the rich diversity that exists here; how to listen more intently to understand differing perspectives; and how to rethink positions. Practiced at being open to and interacting with a variety of opinions and perspectives, our graduates go forth into the world as stronger employees, leaders, and citizens.

Academic excellence

This summer, we welcomed Mickey Quiñones as the new dean of the Robins School of Business. Prior to joining UR, he served as the O. Paul Corley Distinguished Chair in Organizational Behavior and Administration and department chair in the Southern Methodist University Cox School of Business in Dallas, Texas. Dean Quiñones brings a strong record of building innovative programs, and I look forward to working with him in the coming years as he leads the distinctive Robins School, the nation’s only fully accredited, highly ranked undergraduate business school that is also part of a highly ranked liberal arts university. I will also be attending with Mickey several alumni events nationally in the coming year, where I hope some of you will have the opportunity to meet and greet our new dean.

Two internal appointments that took effect July 1 will help us continue to provide an unparalleled education to our students that evolves and improves each year. Carol Parish, Floyd D. and Elisabeth S. Gottwald Chair in Chemistry, took on a new role as associate provost for academic integration. In her new position, she will build on her previous success integrating Richmond’s science curricula and mentoring students to help integrate the academic experience of students Universitywide — across the curriculum, among schools, and in co-curricular activities. Linda Boland, professor of biology, took on a new role as the inaugural director of the Teaching and Scholarship Hub, which will better equip faculty for inclusive pedagogy, continuing innovation in the classroom, and the ongoing production of excellent scholarly and creative work. Both of these appointments reflect our commitment to ensuring that our faculty provide the very best curriculum and support for our students.

Enrollment update

This year’s first-year students come from one of the strongest applicant pools in our history. Students applying to Richmond for this academic year had a record-high average SAT score of 1365, which ranked in the top 10th percentile of SAT test-takers nationally. They also averaged a 3.67 grade-point average on a 4.0 scale. Even though we admitted 2.3% fewer applicants than last year, undergraduate enrollment still exceeded our targets. At the start of the new year, we welcomed 834 first-year students and 44 transfer students, as well as 266 new students in law, MBA, and School of Professional and Continuing Studies programs; we will have final enrollment numbers October 1.

This year’s impressive enrollment results reaffirm the exceptional value and extraordinary promise of a Richmond education in the eyes of talented students making the critical decision of where to pursue their higher education. As Richmond’s reputation for academic excellence reaches more and more prospective students and their families, they are responding enthusiastically with a desire to join our academic community because they recognize the distinctive power of the heightened liberal arts education that Richmond provides as no other institution of higher education can.

External rankings

We saw further evidence of Richmond’s rising reputation with this week’s release of the newest rankings by U.S. News and World Report. In the latest edition, Richmond rose to 23rd among national liberal arts colleges, up from 25th a year ago. This ranking reflects contributions made by dedicated Spiders across the University of Richmond community, from faculty and staff on campus who work hard every day to recruit, retain, and graduate talented students to alumni and friends who provide their support by offering internships, mentoring, and annual gifts.

Culture of philanthropy

Broad support from Spiders everywhere resulted in one of the best years to date for University philanthropy. Approximately 15,400 individuals made gifts to UR during the 2018–19 fiscal year, and total gifts topped $46 million. I was particularly pleased with the growth in the number of donors making gifts of $100 or less, a sign of broad and growing support for annual giving and confidence in the University’s responsible stewardship of every gift.

This fall, we will renew last year’s Spiders Helping Spiders giving effort, supporting the Spider Emergency Fund (which helps students meet unexpected expenses), the Career Opportunity Fund (which helps them cover expenses related to interviewing), and financial aid. The effort returns this fall so we can replenish and, hopefully, grow these funds for this year’s students. I encourage you to consider lending your support when we launch our appeal later this semester.


This fall, we will complete work on the Gambles Mill Eco-corridor, a project that makes campus more beautiful, contributes to the sustainability of our region, and preserves the University’s fiscal resources. At the core of the project is the restoration of the Little Westham Creek, which conveys water from Westhampton Lake to the James River. By rerouting and widening the stream bed, we have slowed the flow of water, particularly during storms, allowing the soil to absorb more nitrogen, bacteria, and other contaminants that harm the James River. The project also includes repaving the Gambles Mill Trail, which runs along the creek, making it appropriately landscaped and ADA-accessible for pedestrians, cyclists, and other users.

The private company that led the restoration covered its costs in exchange for mitigation credits, which offset the environmental effects of development projects. The result is a beautiful new campus space that improves the region’s water quality, offers demonstration areas for students studying best practices in environmental resource management, and contributes to our strong commitment to sustainability, both economic and environmental, as articulated in the University’s strategic plan.

There’s only one

Since the launch of Spider Day four years ago, alumni and the campus community have embraced this opportunity to display some swagger about our beloved Spider mascot, a fittingly unique identity for a one-of-a-kind institution. Beginning this year, we’ll celebrate Spider Day on the Friday of Homecoming Weekend. I hope you’ll show your Spider Pride on Nov. 1 by wearing your Spider gear all day — whether you’re with us on campus for Homecoming, celebrating with fellow Spiders at a regional event where you live, or sharing your pride on social media using the hashtag #SpiderPride.


Progress continues on our wide-ranging efforts to provide student-athletes with facilities that prepare them for competition at the highest levels. As Spider field hockey opens its historic 100th season, we have constructed a new support facility at Crenshaw Field thanks to a generous lead gift. This new facility includes home and visiting team rooms, spectator restrooms, a press box, and other amenities. Spider soccer began its season on the new President’s Field at River Road, which offers a Bermuda grass playing surface. Robins Stadium opened the football season with a stunning new look after the installation of new turf for the field and a new track surface ringing it. Both make bold statements in red and blue about the strength of our Spider spirit. These improvements will benefit all 17 teams that use the stadium for playing and conditioning throughout the year.

Construction continues on the new Queally Athletic Center and the comprehensive restoration of historic Millhiser Gymnasium. When these facilities open in the fall of 2020, they will become the hub of our academic support and leadership programs for Spider athletes and a sign of our institutional commitment to the competitive success and scholar-athlete model that sets Richmond apart and makes putting on a Spider uniform a mark of true distinction.


All of these initiatives support our highest goal: delivering the academic excellence that will prepare our students to live lives of purpose and become responsible leaders in a complex and diverse world. As I stated at the outset of this letter, our academic excellence is closely associated with our commitment to building a truly inclusive intercultural community for all of our students. This commitment reflects the understanding that diversity, equity, and inclusion are inextricably linked to educational quality and future success.

I finish every conversation about our steps forward with enormous confidence that we are up to the task of this challenging work. Our institution has come to occupy a privileged position in American higher education, one that calls us to leadership in how we, as a society, prepare the next generation for the opportunities and challenges they will encounter. As Spiders, we embrace this role because we know that what happens here can have an incredible impact everywhere.

Best wishes,

Ronald A. Crutcher