W&L President Kenneth P. Ruscio to step down in 2016

wl-universityKenneth P. Ruscio will step down as Washington and Lee University’s president on June 30, 2016.

Ruscio, who announced his decision to the campus community today, will have completed a decade as president of his alma mater when he leaves the position. He intends to take a sabbatical leave for the 2016-17 academic year and then return to W&L’s faculty.

In a letter to the university community, Ruscio said that while he had no timetable in mind when he became president in July 2006, “a decade now seems about right — enough to have achieved many of our goals and the right moment for the university to start anticipating the new ones.”

Ruscio’s decision comes as W&L is nearing the end of its historic $500 million fundraising campaign. That campaign, which officially concludes on June 30, will have successfully funded most of the initiatives included in the university’s current strategic plan, formally adopted in May 2007.

“The board has accepted President Ruscio’s decision with reluctance, but with deep appreciation and admiration for his exceptional leadership,” said Donald Childress, rector of the W&L Board of Trustees. “Washington and Lee is a stronger institution today by virtually every measure because of the way President Ruscio has combined his vision with his devotion to Washington and Lee.”

Among the numerous achievements of Ruscio’s presidency:

  • The $50 million renovation and restoration of the Colonnade, a National Historic Landmark which comprises the signature campus buildings. Work on four of the five buildings has been completed, with construction on the fifth, Tucker Hall, scheduled to begin in summer 2016.
  • The development of the Johnson Program in Leadership and Integrity, created through a $100 million gift that has created a major scholarship program, two professorships, and an array of summer internship and research opportunities for students.
  • The creation of such new academic initiatives as the Roger Mudd Center for Ethics, the J. Lawrence Connolly Center for Entrepreneurship, a reinvigorated four-week Spring Term, and the innovative, nationally regarded third-year curriculum in the School of Law.
  • A major expansion of the University’s financial aid program that has made W&L’s distinctive education available to qualified students regardless of their family’s financial circumstances. It has also resulted in the removal of student loans from all financial aid packages. The W&L Promise, created in 2013, guarantees free tuition to any admitted undergraduate student with family income below $75,000.
  • The $66 million Lenfest Challenge that created 15 of the 20 new endowed chairs and 10-term professorships and improved faculty compensation. The university has also introduced major work-life initiatives for faculty and staff.
  • A strong commitment to sustainability initiatives featuring a successful, cost-saving energy-education program, as well as the state’s largest solar-panel array at the time of its 2011 installation.
  • The construction of new facilities: the Center for Global Learning, Hillel House, upper-division housing neighborhood and natatorium. In addition, the university has made extensive renovations to first-year housing, Leyburn Library and Lewis Hall, and has developed the Duchossois Athletic Complex, featuring Wilson Field.
  • The support for the communities of Lexington and Rockbridge County through the creation of the Community Grants Program, the relocation of the national Omicron Delta Kappa headquarters to Lexington, and the partnership that has resulted in the restoration of the historic former courthouse and jail into University-leased buildings.

In his letter to the community, Ruscio praised the quality of the people who compose Washington and Lee: “The strength of this community has always been its people — the thousands of alumni who remain dedicated to their alma mater, the creative teacher-scholars on the faculty, the devoted and highly competent staff, the parents and families of the students, and most important, our students. I certainly knew that before assuming the presidency. That is affirmed every day I go to the office.”

A distinguished scholar of democratic theory and public policy, Ruscio earned his B.A. in politics from Washington and Lee in 1976, and a master of public administration (1978) and a Ph.D. in public affairs and public administration (1983), both from Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs.

He was a postdoctoral research scholar at UCLA and taught at both Worcester Polytechnic Institute and the University of Kansas before returning to his alma mater in 1987. Between 1987 and 2002 at W&L, he held staff and faculty positions as professor of politics, associate dean of the Williams School of Commerce, Economics, and Politics, and dean of freshmen.

From 2002–06, Ruscio served as dean of the Jepson School of Leadership Studies at the University of Richmond before he rejoined W&L as the university’s 26th president.

Active in national higher education circles, Ruscio serves on the boards of the Council of Independent Colleges and the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U). He is currently the immediate past chair of the AAC&U. He also has served as national president of Omicron Delta Kappa, the national leadership society founded at Washington and Lee in 1914.

Ruscio is the author of “The Leadership Dilemma in Modern Democracy” (2004) as well as numerous papers and articles. In recognition of his scholarly and professional accomplishments, Washington and Lee’s chapter of Phi Beta Kappa inducted Ruscio as an alumni member in 2008. He has also received the Jepson School’s James MacGregor Burns Award for contributions to leadership studies.

Ruscio is married to Kimberley O’Donnell Ruscio. Their son, Matthew, is a 2012 graduate of St. Lawrence University.


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