- The Washington Times - Monday, June 15, 2009

CHARLOTTESVILLE — University of Virginia President John T. Casteen III announced Friday that he will retire Aug. 1, 2010, at the conclusion of his 20th year on the job.

Mr. Casteen, 65, made the announcement at a Board of Visitors meeting and in a letter to faculty and staff.

Mr. Casteen lauded the accomplishments of faculty and staff members - many by first name - calling the work of the faculty at one of the nation’s top-ranked public universities “little short of magic.”

“You define the core, the backbone, the center of excellence of our university, each of you in your own way,” he told the standing-room-only crowd at the university’s rotunda, the historic centerpiece of the university designed by Thomas Jefferson.

Mr. Casteen said he began contemplating the transition last year and decided that stepping down next year would allow the university’s Board of Visitors enough time to find a successor and allow him or her to be involved in picking successors for other senior leaders who will be retiring.

Heywood Fralin, rector of the university, said he expected the board to begin a search for Mr. Casteen’s successor in late July. He said Mr. Casteen would be remembered for his work on diversity and making the university a leading national and global institution.

“John will be remembered as the person who understood Jefferson’s vision of this place and catapulted it into the 21st century,” he said.

Mr. Casteen has led the university during two of the largest capital campaigns in the history of public universities, including the current goal of raising $3 billion. The endowment took a nearly $1 billion hit last year because of the tanking economy.

Mr. Casteen told his colleagues he hoped to be able to reach the $3 billion goal, but “I really don’t know if I can promise you that.”

He will remain as a consultant to the new president for one year and will continue to work on raising the money.

“I’m not an awfully competitive person, but I like to finish what I start,” he told reporters after the announcement.

Mr. Casteen oversaw a major expansion of the university, including construction of 98 buildings and major renovation of dozens of others.

He also led the campaign to convince the General Assembly to give the university and some other schools more autonomy in exchange for receiving fewer state dollars. Currently, 6.9 percent of the university’s $2.25 billion budget is funded by the state.

Mr. Casteen said he would like to teach writing or public policy classes after retirement, but would not be tied to one department if he returns to teaching.

First, he said, there are several projects and a book that he put on hold while serving as president that he would like to finish.

He said he hasn’t thought about what advice he might give his successor, but that he would like to see the university add some more schools, particularly a school of global studies or environmental policy. Mr. Casteen is a member of the board of trustees of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

“The fact that the net result of 35 years of state action to clean up the Chesapeake Bay is a dead bay, it’s probably not hard to figure out that we need to figure out a better way to direct public policy toward solving major public problems,” he said.

Mr. Casteen received his bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees from UVa. He taught English at the University of California at Berkeley and at Virginia before becoming the school’s dean of admissions in 1975.

In 1982, Mr. Casteen left the University of Virginia to spend four years as Virginia’s secretary of education. After that he became president of the University of Connecticut, where he stayed until he took the top job at the University of Virginia.

The university, founded in 1819 by Jefferson, had about 21,000 students in the 2008-09 school year.

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