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New UMW president sets some lofty goals
UMW President Rick Hurley gives first formal address to faculty and staff

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Date published: 8/20/2010


Rick Hurley said he was a "maintenance president" during his first stint as the University of Mary Washington's acting president in 2007.

He maintained the place and made sure UMW fulfilled its commitments.

"It was an enjoyable role for me," he said yesterday in his first formal address to faculty and staff as the university's ninth president. "It was something that didn't intimidate me at all."

About three years later, the university's board of visitors asked Hurley to become the full-time president. Judy Hample abruptly resigned this winter after less than two years as UMW's first female president.

Hurley agreed over the phone to become president effective July 1.

"Then, after I hung up, the reality of what I just said really hit me," recalled Hurley, who served as acting president for the second time from April 1 until June 30 of this year.

His new title meant "having all the responsibility for the institution."

"It really started overwhelming me at times," Hurley said.

All of that pressure didn't keep him from revealing an ambitious goal during his speech yesterday: "To be the best public liberal arts university in the country."

He plans to identify 10 of the top public liberal arts colleges nationwide and analyze what contributed to their success.

"From there, we can determine if any changes or improvements to what we do should be considered," he said.

For instance, he said, most high-quality liberal arts schools have honors programs and fully developed offices of international programs. UMW has neither.

The Fredericksburg school is working to establish an honors program and plans to recruit a director of international programs next year.

Hurley made several other announcements, including:

Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., has tentatively agreed to be UMW's commencement speaker next year. Lewis and former Mary Washington history professor James Farmer were among the "Big Six" leaders of the Civil Rights movement. Hurley said he thinks UMW should do more to honor Farmer, who died in 1999.

UMW plans to name a special assistant to the president for diversity and equity in January. That person will plan the university's diversity efforts. "We need to deal with this issue in a coordinated way," Hurley said.

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"Over the years we've had top administrators tell us that we are trying to achieve some goal like the best public liberal arts college in the country. This is the first time I've really felt it was within reach."

--Robert Rycroft, professor of economics

"There's a very positive vibe on the campus right now, and I think this speech was a contribution to that."

--Ranjit Singh, professor of political science

"We're glad to have someone with such desire and focus, and the changes he's already made have been wonderful. I think there's just this positive momentum of good things to come."

--Nicole Myers, professor of education

"He has an ambitious agenda for this year and going forward beyond, and I think he's got the support of the faculty--very much so."

--Stephen Stageberg, professor of economics

--Jeff Branscome