Norfolk State’s president to resign

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 19, 2005

Staff Report

Dr. Marie V. McDemmond, citing health reasons, will step down as president of Norfolk State University, she informed the board of visitors on Friday.

The resignation takes effect on June 30.

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McDemmond told the board that while her illness is of a serious nature, with proper care and a much less rigorous schedule, it is possible to contain its progress for a number of years to come.

When McDemmond steps down in June, she will have served eight years as president of Virginia’s largest historically black university.

In 1997, McDemmond became the first woman to lead Norfolk State University and the first African-American woman to serve as president of a four-year college in Virginia.

At that time she inherited an institution with an operating deficit and a history of under-funding that dated back to the early 1960s.

Using her extensive background in financial management, she secured a state loan to offset the University’s mounting deficit and instituted fiscally sound management practices that allowed for repayment of the last installment of the $4.1 million state loan more than two years early.

Beginning in 1998, McDemmond worked tirelessly with two governors (Gilmore and Warner), the Virginia legislature, and the Legislative Black Caucus to secure state operating funds for six new academic programs in electronic and optical engineering, computer science, and criminal justice as part of Virginia’s Accord with the Office of Civil Rights and to dismantle the vestiges of a segregated/unequal system of higher education in Virginia.

For 10 years prior to McDemmond’s administration, NSU had received less than a one percent increase in overall state funding.

Her efforts were rewarded with new and enhanced state operating funding totaling more than $18 million, a 76 percent increase since she arrived in 1997, and approval for additional one-time capital outlay funding for more than $143 million in renovation and construction projects over the last eight years. During her presidency, Norfolk State’s endowment has grown by 65 percent and fundraising across all areas has increased dramatically.

Dr. McDemmond’s vision and efforts to obtain support and resources to make the Research and Innovations to Support Empowerment (RISE) Center and RISE Campus a reality are destined to put NSU on the Science and Technology educational map of the future.

The construction of the RISE Center will begin this spring and the RISE SuperNode, a major component of the NSU RISE Campus project, is now providing a private optical network with ultra-high capacity. This technology infrastructure is housed within a secured and hardened infrastructure on the NSU RISE Campus and has the capacity to connect research institutions to the National Lambda Rail and provide businesses and military installations with ultra-high bandwidth and secure and redundant connectivity.

NSU’s RISE SuperNode is considered a regional asset that can meet or exceed the region’s broadband access needs.

In her remarks to the Board, Dr. McDemmond shared her feelings about this important initiative, &uot;It has been my life’s work at Norfolk State to bring our institution to the forefront in science and technology and to make it possible for the NSU community to increase its contributions to the economic health of the Hampton Roads area and the entire region.

&uot;I cannot thank enough the people who have been so supportive of me and of Norfolk State University over the years. . .from our state officials and legislators to our Virginia Congressional delegation to community leaders, my fellow university presidents, those in business, industry and the military who partner with higher education, and especially our own Spartan family – students, administrators, faculty, staff, volunteer Board members, donors, and alumni of Norfolk State University.&uot;

McDemmond added, &uot;After a short absence, I plan to return to NSU in 2006 as a tenured faculty member, and I also hope to maintain my close relationship with my colleagues and all of my dear friends at NSU.&uot;

In response to the news, Gov. Mark R. Warner said,

&uot;Dr. McDemmond will be in our thoughts and prayers. I congratulate her and the entire NSU family on her tenure.

She helped improve academic rigor in the classroom, expanded academic offerings, renovated facilities, and increased information technology capabilities throughout the campus. I wish her well and thank her for her outstanding service to the Commonwealth.&uot;

Jack Ezzell, Rector of NSU’s Board of Visitors, in his comments after the announcement, praised McDemmond, and said, &uot;Dr. McDemmond’s contributions to this University have been much more than financial improvements and new programs.

She is a charismatic and inspirational leader who has led by example.

&uot;The Norfolk State University Board of Visitors and I look forward to continuing our relationship with this truly unique leader and wish her the very best in her future endeavors.&uot;

Effective July 1, Dr. Alvin J. Schexnider will serve as acting president of Norfolk State University.

The Board of Visitors will begin the search for a new president immediately.