Illustration by Maria Fabrizio

A 'fulfilling' presidency

May 21, 2021

Forum

By Ronald A. Crutcher, president

When I stepped down as president of Wheaton College, I told my wife, Dr. Betty Neal Crutcher, that I did not intend to take on another presidency. There was, however, one caveat: If I could find a small institution whose faculty and staff prized their roles as mentors above all else, I would reconsider my plans. I fully expected that I would return to the performing arts, where I had begun my career. Then an executive search firm contacted me about the University of Richmond.

I had always known that Richmond was a very fine institution, but its quality far exceeded my expectations. I was especially impressed with the university’s commitment to supporting close faculty, staff, and student collaboration. As our alumni community exemplifies so well, this commitment has helped prepare generations of students to contribute to and succeed in a complex world.

One of the greatest pleasures of my job has been working alongside our community to advance our educational mission. I am proud of everything we have accomplished together to advance our goal to be, and to be recognized as, one of the strongest liberal arts institutions in the nation.

Together, we have advanced academic 
excellence, from bolstering support for faculty 
development to creating new living-learning communities, such as the Richmond 
Endeavor. We have made significant strides in recruiting and retaining diverse and highly qualified students and faculty.

We have advanced the university’s reach and reputation, including by establishing a successful Office of Scholars and Fellowships. And our new Well-Being Center has put us at the forefront of higher education’s well-being movement.

I am grateful to the countless alumni who have given their time, energy, and resources to advance our educational excellence. Today, U.S. News and World Report ranks us 22nd for national liberal arts colleges — our highest ranking ever in this category.

We have made great progress, but there is still more work to do. When I challenged our community in my inaugural address to use our rich diversity to change the university’s culture so that everyone could thrive, I wish I had added this transformation could not be achieved in five or even 10 years. Our efforts at making Richmond more inclusive are — and will be — a continuous work in progress.

We will continue to have impassioned debates about how best to advance this work, as we have this spring on our campus. Such difficult conversations are part of the evolution of becoming a truly inclusive community. I remain confident that if we press forward together and navigate our differences with patience, empathy, and intellect, we will emerge stronger than before.

Our university has come a long way from the days when our focus was preparing white Baptist men for the pastorate. However imperfectly, our institution increasingly embodies the belief that diversity, equity, and inclusion are inextricably linked to academic excellence and the work of preparing our students for lives of purpose, whatever path they may choose.

Thank you for making my six years as Richmond’s president some of the most fulfilling of my life. Your commitment to the university has been a constant source of pride and inspiration for me. I salute you for the many ways you have helped make UR the great institution it is today — and will be tomorrow.