Big names to lead commission

April 2, 2010

The chairmen of a commission convened to assess the New College Institute (NCI) and recommend options for its future are giants in higher education in the state, institute board members said Thursday.

“These efforts will be led by perhaps two of the greatest brand names in higher education in Virginia,” said Rob Spilman, chairman of the NCI board.

He was referring to John Casteen, who will retire this summer after 20 years as president of the University of Virginia, and Eugene Trani, who retired last year after 20 years as president of Virginia Commonwealth University.

The NCI board learned during its meeting Thursday that Casteen and Trani will be co-chairmen of the New College 2012 Commission. The Harvest Foundation, which helps fund the institute, convened the commission and charged it with helping state officials make a decision about the institute’s future.

That decision is expected to be made in 2012 by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia.

“There aren’t persons of higher stature in higher education in Virginia,” Del. Ward Armstrong, D-Collinsville and an NCI board member, said of Casteen and Trani.

Both Armstrong and Spilman also praised William H. Leighty, past chief of staff to governors Mark Warner and Tim Kaine and former head of the Virginia Retirement System. As the commission’s executive director, Leighty will “quarterback the day-to-day” work, Spilman said.

Leighty, 56, teaches part-time at VCU.

In announcing the 10-member commission, Harvest Foundation Executive Director Allyson Rothrock described its members as “highly credible” people from this area and elsewhere.

The commission “includes officials whose reputations in business, government and higher education are recognized for igniting strategic growth, pooling resources, uniting disparate groups and attracting funding,” Harvest stated in a news release.

According to Leighty, former governor Gerald Baliles helped Harvest choose the commission members.

Leighty said he was enticed to be the commission’s executive director by the opportunity to work with the prominent people who are on it.

In addition to Casteen and Trani, the commission’s members are:

• Spilman, president and CEO of Bassett Furniture Industries;

• Elizabeth Haskell, former Virginia secretary of natural resources, a member of the NCI board and chairman of the New College Foundation Board;

• T. Bahnson Stanley III, a partner with Ellis, McQuarry and Stanley and a former resident of Stanleytown;

• Paul B. Toms Jr., chairman, CEO and president of Hooker Furniture Corp. and president of the Harvest Foundation Board of Directors;

• Eva Tieg Hardy, former Virginia secretary of health and human services and retired executive vice president of Dominion Resources;

• Anthony Jackson, Henry County Schools superintendent;

• Cynthia Ingram, retired dean of continuing education and workforce development at Patrick Henry Community College, former Martinsville School Board member and member of the Harvest Foundation Board of Directors; and

• W. Taylor Reveley IV, associate director of the Miller Center of Public Affairs and former counsel to the 2005-06 New College Planning Commission.

In addition, Mark Musick, former president of the Southern Regional Education Board, and Charles M. Guthridge, president of Charles M. Guthridge Associates, will serve as advisors to the commission. They will be called upon when their expertise is needed, Rothrock said.

All of the commission’s members are volunteers. Leighty said Harvest will reimburse VCU for the time he spends involved with the commission.

Rothrock said the costs of Leighty’s travel, as well as travel costs of any commission members, also will be covered by Harvest. She did not know Thursday how much the total costs might be.

The commission will meet in Martinsville, at least initially, Leighty said. He said he likely will visit the area “fairly frequently,” especially at the beginning of the nine-month study, and probably will work close to full-time during some weeks and part-time during others, depending on the need.

The commission’s first meeting has not been set, Leighty said, but he expects it to happen this month.


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