Old Dominion University Celebrates Inauguration of Ninth President
Old Dominion University commemorated the inauguration of President Brian O. Hemphill, Ph.D., during Homecoming weekend with a historic investiture ceremony, the launch of a capital campaign and the kickoff of "Monarchs Give Back," an annual community service project.
President Hemphill was installed as the ninth president of Old Dominion University by Bruce Bradley '78, rector of the Board of Visitors, during an investiture ceremony Friday morning in Chartway Arena.
Before an audience of students, faculty, staff and representatives from across higher education and the community, Bradley bestowed the presidential medallion, and Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Austin Agho, Ph.D., presented the academic mace.
"Brian is perfect for these times because we are at an inflection point and entering a time of great opportunity," Bradley said, later adding, "The future of Old Dominion is very bright indeed."
Reflecting on his first year at the University, President Hemphill said, "When we began this journey together on July 1, 2021, we made a commitment to excellence, accountability, transparency and student-centeredness. Without question, Old Dominion University's longstanding reputation and proven success in providing access and opportunity are the cornerstone of our efforts and will continue to guide us as we move forward together."
President Hemphill noted higher education is changing.
"Now, we can allow skyrocketing tuition, growing student debt, the enrollment cliff, the value proposition, or the challenging post-COVID environment to define us and limit our possibilities, or we can embrace innovation and opportunity," he said. "And, in turn, we will be a forward-focused institution in our research, forward-focused in our teaching and forward-focused in our service.
"The universities that engage in innovative approaches and visionary changes will remain at the forefront during these challenging times. I commit that Old Dominion University will be one of those leading institutions."
Over the course of his career in higher education, President Hemphill has steered profound change at campuses striving for distinction, with each experience preparing him to lead at ODU. President Hemphill's service in higher education began with administrative roles in student affairs at the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville and Northern Illinois University, before he assumed the presidency at West Virginia State University. Before coming to ODU, he served as the seventh president of Radford University.
Colleagues from throughout President Hemphill's career in higher education described his energy, courage and transformational leadership.
President Hemphill shared his intention to become a university president over 20 years ago when he met friend and colleague Derrick Gragg, Ph.D.
Gragg, the Combe Family Vice President for Athletics and Recreation at Northwestern University, shared memories of his time working with President Hemphill at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. "I loved his energy immediately," he said. "I admired his determination and tenacity, and I could tell by the look in his eyes that this guy really meant business."
President Hemphill's inaugural address introduced the theme of his era of leadership: "Forward-Focused: Inspiring Innovation." In his first year on campus, that theme was put into practice. President Hemphill has led hundreds of constituents across campus through a strategic planning process producing a road map for the next five years. At the Distinguished Alumni Honors Dinner on Oct. 20, President Hemphill unveiled a capital campaign aiming to raise $500 million for scholarships, research, faculty recruitment, campus facilities and more.
In late 2021, the University wasdesignated a Research 1 institutionby the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education for the Advancement of Teaching, placing ODU among the highest level of research institutions in the United States. The prestigious designation creates opportunities for the University to attract students, faculty and funding.
President Hemphill has forged partnerships to benefit the community, including two projects targeting health disparities in Hampton Roads. In August 2021, President Hemphill joined Eastern Virginia Medical School President Alfred Abuhamad, M.D., and Norfolk State University President Javaune Adams-Gaston, Ph.D., to sign a memorandum of understanding topartner on the future ONE School of Public Health. In December 2021, President Hemphill and Dr. Abuhamad committed to explore the potential integration of EVMS and ODU to form an academic health sciences center.
Over the next five years, ODU will continue to address workforce development needs by adding the School of Supply Chain, Logistics and Maritime Operations and leading the 757 Regional Internship Collaborative. Campus will continue to evolve; a five-story, 160,000-square-foot Biology Building is planned to open in 2026, and President Hemphill recently announced construction of an expanded baseball facility known as the Ellmer Family Baseball Complex.
In athletics, President Hemphill championed a shift to the Sun Belt Conference, expanding opportunities for student-athletes to compete against regional rivals.
To mark the occasion of the inauguration, President Hemphill and First Lady Marisela Rosas Hemphill, Ph.D., launched "Monarchs Give Back," an annual effort to highlight the University's commitment to partner with the Hampton Roads community. This year, the Monarch community collected donations of nonperishable food items to benefit children experiencing food insecurity, especially those in Norfolk Public Schools.
During the ceremony, President Hemphill was joined by colleagues from 35 institutions of higher education across Virginia and the nation. The procession of faculty members, dressed in full regalia, was led by University Marshal Helen Crompton, Ph.D.
In his keynote address, West Virginia University President E. Gordon Gee, Ed.D., who has led five universities, reflected on the role of a university president.
"You have the responsibility to set the tone from the top on campus and to make sure that the University's vision and values are not just words on a page, but something every community member lives every day," he said. "I learned that our role as leaders is to make things right before they go wrong.
"Leading means engaging your whole campuses in asking the important question: for what purpose are we here?"
Under his leadership, President Hemphill said ODU will "serve the commonwealth as a model for creativity, discovery, excellence and progress with a keen eye toward research, teaching and service."
"In doing so, something special will happen on this campus. We will transform Old Dominion University," he said. "Together, we will propel ODU to national and international prominence."
In State of University Address, President Hemphill Announces Plans for School of Data Science, Expanded Baseball Stadium
Old Dominion University President Brian O. Hemphill, Ph.D., announced plans for a School of Data Science and an expanded baseball facility during his first State of the University address, which he delivered Friday at Chartway Arena.
The University is in the final stages of submitting a proposal to the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia regarding the School of Data Science, he said.
Through partnerships with Jefferson Lab and NASA Langley, researchers from these national labs will have ODU faculty status. Also, ODU faculty and students will have special access to these national lab collaborations and facilities.
"This is truly a win-win for ODU and our partners," President Hemphill said.
The baseball stadium project exists thanks to the generosity of several donors, including Priority Automotive President and CEO Dennis Ellmer, who gave $2.5 million.
"ODU is honored that the expanded facility will be known as the Ellmer Family Baseball Complex," President Hemphill said. (See related story.)
In a further announcement, the ODU leader said the University was in the first phase of a multiyear effort to increase stipend levels for graduate assistants. Master's students with teaching assistant duties will receive $15,000 - a boost of $5,000 - to support the institution's mission of teaching, as well as research.
Stipends for doctoral students will increase from $15,000 to $20,000, effective immediately, President Hemphill said.
Among other achievements he highlighted from the past year was ODU's designation in December 2021 as an R1 research university by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. This placed ODU among the nation's top research institutions.
"This is a truly significant accomplishment and will forever change the future possibilities for our institution and our students," President Hemphill said.
But his vision is grander still.
"We are truly committed to moving up among our R1 counterparts with a bold and aggressive agenda across all research areas, with a special emphasis on maritime, coastal resiliency, offshore wind energy, data science, cybersecurity, autonomous systems and health care."
On the health care front, President Hemphill cited the University's expanded work with Eastern Virginia Medical School and a deepening collaboration with Sentara Healthcare and other partners. Since the summer of 2021, the entities have been meeting to explore the establishment of an academic health sciences center to address health disparities facing the region and its people, President Hemphill said.
"A strategic integration between EVMS and ODU would result in an academic health sciences center that offers the highest number of academic programs and the largest enrollment in health sciences in the Commonwealth of Virginia," he said.
The proposed integration would strengthen and increase the workforce pipeline in Hampton Roads, he said, creating an economic impact of $4.9 billion for Virginia.
Highlighting other initiatives in progress, President Hemphill updated the audience on construction of what he called "state-of-the-art facilities that create a learning environment that is second to none."
The Health Sciences Building, a capital project of more than $76 million, is taking shape at 41st Street and Monarch Way and is scheduled to be finished in summer 2023. The three-story building will house the School of Dental Hygiene, the School of Rehabilitation Sciences and the School of Medical Diagnostic and Translational Sciences.
During the most recent legislative session, the University secured $188 million in project funding for a new Biology Building. With more than 160,000 square feet across five floors, it is scheduled to be ready in 2026, replacing the Mills Godwin Life Sciences Building.
Regarding athletics, President Hemphill spoke about the "new era" Old Dominion entered in July of this year when it joined the Sun Belt Conference.
"For ODU, the conference movement was always about providing the very best experience for our student-athletes as well as our fans," he said. "We are honored to join the Sun Belt and look forward to a great deal of collaboration and competition in our inaugural season and beyond."
President Hemphill also:
Acknowledged nearly 300 students, faculty and staff for serving on 12 groups that crafted a five-year strategic plan for the University. The final plan will go to the Board of Visitors in December, he said.
Congratulated ODU's Virginia Modeling, Analysis and Simulation Center for 25 years as an academic center of excellence in modeling and simulation to support critical research related to the U.S. Department of Defense.
Cited the School of Cybersecurity for its recent designation as a National Security Agency Center for Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense.
Praised 13 cybersecurity students being inducted into ODU's Cyber LeADERS program.
Applauded the work of two task forces: ODU Online and Branding, Marketing and Communication. Their recommendations, he said, will come to life under the leadership of two vice presidents, Nina Rodriguez Gonser in Digital Learning and Jaime Hunt in University Communications.
In 1930, the world was in the depths of the Great Depression, but a small group of determined scholars pressed ahead with a plan for a Norfolk Division of the College of William and Mary. When the doors opened, 208 students entered the single building that housed the new Division.
Today, the Division is Old Dominion University, the alma mater of 164,000 graduates. That single building is now a four-campus educational powerhouse, which is conducting cutting-edge research and leveraging digital learning throughout the world.
In its early days, the Division educated teachers and engineers in a two-year program. By 1953, four-year programs were available and, by 1962, the Division was granted its independence and named Old Dominion College. That name would not last long, though. With the expansion of research capabilities and the decision to offer master's and doctorate degrees, the Board of Visitors established Old Dominion University in 1969.
In the decades since, Old Dominion has evolved into a comprehensive learning community with six colleges: Arts and Letters, Business and Public Administration, Education and Professional Studies, Engineering and Technology, Health Sciences, and Sciences. Old Dominion's research capabilities have been recognized by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education with the coveted Research I designation for very high research activity.
Old Dominion University alumni are at work in all 50 states and 67 countries. Under the leadership of Brian O. Hemphill, Ph.D., as its ninth President, Old Dominion University will continue to chart its course as a dynamic institution, evolving to meet the future as an agent of change for its students, the region, the
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