On the road

April 26, 2018


Thoughts from a year of travel meeting and talking about Spiders
By Ronald A. Crutcher, president

Jack Kerouac once decided, “I just won’t sleep. There are so many other interesting things to do.”

I’ve been on the road myself lately, having  spent the past year with interesting Spiders doing interesting things across the country and around the world. From the ancient ruins of Rome to Microsoft’s homage to modernity outside Seattle. From the tranquil vineyards of rural Virginia to the bustling open-air markets in Old Havana. From Wall Street to Wilshire Boulevard, Marylebone in London to Michigan Avenue.

My experiences are too numerous to count and frankly too interesting to describe in this constrained space. The quick version would read something like this: Rome, to present a keynote to a global audience on the enduring value of American higher education; Seattle, to visit Microsoft headquarters for a two-hour meeting, facilitated by Richmond parents, on the wisdom of hiring Spider graduates; and Los Angeles, to entertain recently admitted students and families atop a hotel that hosted the Golden Globes weeks earlier. I’ve performed three concerts in Cuba, discussed access and affordability with an editor from The New York Times, and shared Spider pride with a large, spirited crowd of alumni overlooking Boathouse Row in Philadelphia.

Varied and inspired excursions like these are essential to promoting the university, engaging our alumni, and advancing the goals of our strategic plan. Every keynote speech, Q&A with high school counselors, press interview, or candid conversation with an alumnus provides an opportunity to illustrate the extraordinary richness of a Richmond education. As I’ve traveled from city to city, I’ve also discovered that our audiences are eager to learn about the University today and to know how they can contribute to our momentum. Alumni in particular have responded enthusiastically to our stated goal to engage more actively and meaningfully with them.

Let me tell you about two such encounters. I met Jennifer Chazanow, GC’17, at a reception in Seattle. She recently graduated from the School of Professional and Continuing Studies with a master’s in human resource management and was quickly hired by Amazon. Armed with the confidence and skills she honed at Richmond, Jennifer is thriving professionally and is now actively (and directly) involved in hiring more Spiders at Amazon.

Mihir Patel, ’02, who works in finance in New York City, has supported Richmond since graduation, contributing to the annual fund and establishing an endowed scholarship that continues to grow. Earlier this academic year, I had the opportunity to thank Mihir for his generosity at a meeting in Manhattan. During our conversation, he expressed his wish to gather a few of his former classmates to talk about the roles they can play in supporting the university’s future. So I said, “Do it, and I’ll come back.” He did, and in December I enjoyed a lively meal with a group of Spiders from the Class of 2002 talking about the university.

We’ll continue to monitor the outcomes of this and every stop on our Richmond road trips. Our successes will manifest as rising enrollments from targeted outreach areas, national media placements, new internships and career opportunities, and, yes, financial investments that sustain our mission. In fact, I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve returned to campus more than once to find a check supporting an initiative that touched the heart of an alumnus, friend, or parent with whom I had visited. There is a purpose behind our coordinated outreach, and we are extraordinarily grateful when plans and promises align.

I hope you’ll continue to join me on this adventure. The interlacing bonds we create with one another and with the University of Richmond are strengthened when we share a story, pursue a goal, or walk a path together as a community consumed by intellectual curiosity and confidently pursuing its ambitions.