Honor Darden’s Master Teachers: New Effort to Celebrate Faculty Legends Underway

John Colley, Bill Sihler, C. Ray Smith — these names are synonymous with the University of Virginia Darden School of Business‘ reputation for excellence through decades of acts large and small, from years spent playing pick-up basketball games with students or attending student soirees to steering the School’s strategy and leading difficult cases in the classroom with a near-mythical level of precision.

The fierce loyalty and strong bonds the first generation of Darden faculty engendered in their students made them obvious choices for alumni to honor through their giving to the School.

In thanking their beloved teachers and mentors, former students have honored Darden’s future by naming physical spaces like C. Ray Smith Alumni Hall, creating scholarships like the William Wooding Sihler Scholarship and endowing faculty chairs like the John L. Colley Jr. Professorship in Business Administration, currently held by Professor Jim Detert.

“While holding any endowed chair is a privilege, I feel even more honored to hold the chair named for a Darden legend,” Detert said. “Knowing the impact John Colley had on so many students, for so many years, inspires me to pay it forward by working every day to make the same positive difference.”

The strong desire among alumni to show appreciation for their favorite professors as they support the School’s future success led Darden to launch Honoring Faculty Legends, an initiative of the Powered by Purpose capital campaign. While many existing gifts have honored the School’s first generation of faculty, this initiative seeks to expand the lens to honor those faculty members who followed and became legends in their own right.

There are many ways to honor faculty legends through giving, but the initiative is specifically focused on gifts in two areas:

In the case of spaces, alumni can make gifts to name indoor and outdoor areas, ensuring their favorite professors’ names are literally etched in stone and directly supporting construction of Darden’s new facilities.

In the case of support for research centers, Professor S. “Venkat” Venkataraman says alumni often ask him if research will detract from the faculty’s acclaimed teaching, to which he replies that great teaching comes from being close to the cutting edge of theory and practice. “It is not just about great teaching. It is also about teaching great things.”

Case in Point: The Robert F. Bruner Dean’s Fund for Faculty Excellence 

The Robert F. Bruner Dean’s Fund for Faculty Excellence serves as a perfect example of how the Darden community came together to honor a faculty legend while empowering the next generation of faculty to make the same impact. When University Professor and Dean Emeritus Bob Bruner announced he would return to the faculty after 10 years leading the School as dean, nearly 50 alumni quickly responded to raise $11.5 million and create the fund.

“When alumni ask me what they can do to bolster the future of Darden and its mission, I reply, ‘Talent is destiny.’ We are in an extraordinarily fierce competition to hire top talent for the next generation of Darden faculty members. We need A-level players who are not only thought leaders, but also stellar teachers and who can relate at ground level to business practitioners,” Bruner said. “The Dean’s Fund for Faculty Excellence has made a massive difference, and yet we have more shoes to fill. Replenishing funds will help us fill them with top talent.”

The Bruner fund is one of Dean Scott Beardsley’s most essential tools to recruit, retain and develop the next generation of faculty legends, which is why the School now seeks to endow a new fund for faculty excellence.

The opportunity to honor faculty legends couldn’t be more timely as the School navigates a wave of faculty retirements. In just the last few years, Darden has announced the retirements of professors who provided centuries of service to the School and thousands of students, including Professors Sam Bodily, Colley, Ken Eades, Paul Farris, Jim Freeland, Bob Landel, Phil Pfeifer, Bob Conroy, Ed Hess, Alec Horniman and Elliott Weiss.

The loss of a beloved professor can also spur a desire among former students to recognize the accomplishments and impact a professor had in life. While the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has delayed a formal event, Darden plans to hold an in-person event and announce a donor-supported initiative to honor Colley, who died in 2020.

For more information about honoring a faculty legend, contact Carter Hoerr at HoerrC@darden.virginia.edu or +1-434-243-5871.

About the University of Virginia Darden School of Business

The University of Virginia Darden School of Business prepares responsible global leaders through unparalleled transformational learning experiences. Darden’s graduate degree programs (MBA, MSBA and Ph.D.) and Executive Education & Lifelong Learning programs offered by the Darden School Foundation set the stage for a lifetime of career advancement and impact. Darden’s top-ranked faculty, renowned for teaching excellence, inspires and shapes modern business leadership worldwide through research, thought leadership and business publishing. Darden has Grounds in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the Washington, D.C., area and a global community that includes 18,000 alumni in 90 countries. 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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