In Memoriam: Rob Vaughan, Darden Lecturer and Founder of Virginia Humanities

12 March 2019

The University of Virginia and the Commonwealth lost a tireless champion of the humanities in March, as Robert Vaughan III died at the age of 74.

Vaughan established and led the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities for more than four decades, growing the organization into one of the leading organizations of its kind in the United States. He also maintained ties to the Darden School, where he taught courses in the full-time MBA program and Darden Executive Education until 2006.

UVA Today remembered Vaughan in an 11 March story.

The National Endowment for the Humanities, in its official remembrance of Vaughan, said that although Virginia was the 44th state to take on the humanities project, it became “one of the most successful and most influential,” giving special credit to Vaughan’s enthusiastic work.

William D. Adams, who chaired the National Endowment for the Humanities when Vaughan announced his retirement in 2016, said, “Under his guidance, Virginia Foundation for the Humanities has become a model for what public humanities practices can and should look like.”

Under Vaughan’s leadership, the nonprofit affiliated with the University – now known as Virginia Humanities – has grown to be the largest, leading state humanities program in the United States: it has supported or developed thousands of statewide humanities projects and currently boasts 12 major programs.

Matthew Gibson, who took the reins as executive director after Vaughan stepped down, came to the foundation in 2005 to create an authoritative digital resource, “Encyclopedia Virginia,” a partnership between the foundation and the Library of Virginia.

Gibson considered Vaughan’s inability to say “no” a strength of his character, attributing it to his former boss’ “generous spirit.”

“He was such a voracious humanist, he didn’t want to stop thinking about the humanities in all its forms,” Gibson said, “how it could have a lasting impact on our world and for our future. The humanities are about looking back and how we got to where we are now, but Rob was always focused on building a stronger tomorrow and stronger communities with stories we were helping people tell, illuminating and amplifying them through our work.”

In a note to the Darden community, Professor and Senior Associate Dean for Faculty and Research Sankaran “Venkat” Venkataraman called Vaughan a valued member of the Management Communication team for more than 20 years.

“He always enjoyed his teaching and time with students,” said Venkataraman.

Read more on UVA Today.

About the University of Virginia Darden School of Business

The University of Virginia Darden School of Business delivers the world’s best business education experience to prepare entrepreneurial, global and responsible leaders through its MBA, Ph.D., MSBA and Executive Education programs. Darden’s top-ranked faculty is renowned for teaching excellence and advances practical business knowledge through research. Darden was established in 1955 at the University of Virginia, a top public university founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819 in Charlottesville, Virginia.


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