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FROM MODEST ROOTS TO UMW PRESIDENCY
Rick Hurley celebrates inauguration

 Richard V. Hurley (left) receives presidential chain of office from Rector Daniel Steen (center) and Provost Jay A. Harper during the ceremony.
ROBERT A. MARTIN/THE FREE LANCE-STAR
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Date published: 10/1/2011

BY JEFF BRANSCOME

Rick Hurley had an epiphany.

He was 25 years old working as an attendant at a gas station off the New Jersey turnpike. His hands were so numb on a cold, rainy November day that he had to use both to pry off gas caps.

"I decided that I had to do something better with my life and so, at that very moment, I made the decision that I was somehow going to college," he said.

Richard V. Hurley, 64, shared that memory yesterday at Dodd Auditorium after being inaugurated as the University of Mary Washington's ninth president. About 900 people, including faculty in academic regalia, attended the event.

Hurley acknowledged that he didn't take the traditional path to a university presidency. Frankly, he said, it's not one he'd necessarily recommend.

"I grew up in a blue-collar family that was not lacking in love, or respect or solid values," he said. "But it was not a family in which higher education was prized. It was just not an expectation in my household."

His main goal in high school was to graduate. And his highest achievement probably was appearing as a dancer on American Bandstand, Hurley said to laughter.

After high school, he worked in a DuPont chemical plant--like his father, grandfather, uncles and just about everyone else in Deepwater, N.J.

He then volunteered for the Army and toured Vietnam for 14 months at the height of the war.

After his military service, he returned to the plant--but quit--worked in construction and then was a full-time gas station attendant.

"So in light of the circuitous and sometimes misguided, or at least unguided, journey, to say that today is a memorable occasion for me would be an understatement. When I speak of the transformative power of education, I'm not just saying the words, I'm living them," Hurley said to a standing ovation.

He went on to receive a bachelor's degree in environmental studies and a master's degree in public administration.

Hurley is UMW's third president since William Anderson retired in 2006 after 23 years on the job.

He was acting president for 14 months after William Frawley was fired in 2007. He served another acting presidency after Judy Hample's abrupt resignation last year.


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