State of the School: Momentum, Gratitude Permeate Reunion Weekend

By McGregor McCance

Dean Scott Beardsley projected two key themes — strength and gratitude — across the University of Virginia Darden School of Business during his Reunion Weekend address to alumni and supporters.

“The state of the School is strong — stronger even than it was before the pandemic — and in many important ways, stronger than it’s been in its 69-year history,” Beardsley said during his annual address on 27 April, held at Abbott Auditorium. “This is due to the incredible work of our faculty, staff, students and alumni. Which brings me to the second and most important message: Thank you!”

During his State of the School presentation, Beardsley highlighted a series of achievements and milestones the School has experienced in the past year, all of which underscore Darden’s growing momentum and its solid position in an ultra-competitive business schools industry.

“We are pursuing excellence on all dimensions: Students and lifelong learners, faculty and staff, research and thought leadership, competitive infrastructure and the resources to make it all happen,” he said.

Beardsley’s update was one of many celebratory moments during a weekend featuring collegial reunions; the fully realized hub of The Forum Hotel for events, social and business gatherings; the beauty of the accompanying and flourishing springtime arboretum and botanical gardens; and a scene rich with friendships and shared successes.

"At Darden, we believe that we are not — and never have been — business school as usual."
Dean Scott Beardsley

More than 1,500 alumni and guests visited Darden during Reunion Weekend, marking the School’s strongest reunion attendance.

Darden School Foundation President Rob Weiler said nearly 800 donors ­— making up 25% of reunion year alumni — made contributions to the Darden Annual Fund during the current fiscal year, which concludes 30 June.

Reunion fundraising, which includes all new commitments made in the fiscal year, totals $7.4 million.

Weiler said six reunion classes (1974, 1989, 1999, 2009, 2009 EMBA and 2014) exceeded fundraising targets, and one class (2009 EMBA) set a new fundraising record in its 15th reunion year. Two classes (1989 and 2009) set reunion attendance records this year, and more than 150 alumni volunteered to serve on their class reunion committees.

“To all of our volunteers and donors, your generosity and spirit are the lifeblood of our school,” he said. “Thank you sincerely for everything.”

From left, Deputy Vice President for Advancement Samantha Hartog, Dean Scott Beardsley and Foundation President Rob Weiler during the reunion giving check presentation. (Photo by Jack Looney)
New members of the Abbott Society, recognizing alumni celebrating their 50th reunion. (Photo by Jack Looney)
From left, Foundation President Rob Weiler, Martina Hund-Mejean (MBA '88), Dean Scott Beardsley, John Fowler (MBA/JD '84) during the Abbott Award ceremony. (Photo by Jack Looney)
Dean Scott Beardsley delivers his State of the School address. (Photo by Jack Looney)

On a day that included honoring new members of the Abbott Society on their 50th reunion, the naming of Martina Hund-Mejean (MBA ’88) as this year’s Charles C. Abbott Award recipient, recognition of four retiring faculty members and more, Beardsley said the School had much to celebrate. But it also must build on current momentum to remain competitive and pursue its highest strategic goals to benefit current students and future generations.

“At Darden, we believe that we are not — and never have been — business school as usual,” he said, referencing the School’s soon-to-launch campaign to highlight Darden’s differentiating strengths to the world. “We know that we must always adapt to find new ways, better ways. We educate doers with the skills, smarts and sense of purpose and ethics to forge the future.”

For the second milestone of its ongoing fundraising campaign, Darden is focusing on Faculty Forward, a concerted effort to sustain and grow the most outstanding business school faculty in the world. Since 2015, alumni and supporters already have powered Darden forward. The School has reached $587 million in total impact to date, with tangible benefits ranging from The Forum Hotel to the Sands Institute for Lifelong Learning to endowed professorships and scholarships in critical focus areas including business ethics and artificial intelligence.

“The impact of your philanthropy is tremendous,” Beardsley said.

"We have achieved our new position through the hard work and generosity of many, and we must not let it slip through our grasp."
Dean Scott Beardsley

During his presentation, Beardsley provided progress assessments in five focus areas that align with strategic priorities that were identified during a process that began in the dean’s first year in office, nine years ago.

  • Learners: Darden has more than 1,200 degree-seeking students and teaches about 3,000 learners through non-degree executive education and lifelong learning programs in Charlottesville and Rosslyn, and millions more online.
  • Faculty and staff: By this fall, Darden will have appointed 60 new faculty members since 2015. Faculty Forward will ensure that Darden attracts and keeps the best, protecting its reputation for the most dynamic learning environment in the industry.
  • Research and thought leadership: Beardsley said Darden’s advantage in these areas is its commitment to producing knowledge that is used in the world of real business. Ethics, stakeholder theory, design thinking, effectuation, artificial intelligence and technological innovation are signature areas for faculty research and idea generation.
  • Infrastructure: The School’s master plan continues to advance, with key endorsements occurring this year for the Faculty Office Building and research building improvements, and student residential housing. The community’s embrace of The Forum Hotel and the expansion of programming and facilities with the Sands Family Grounds in Rosslyn combine to put Darden in its most competitive posture yet for infrastructure.
  • Resources: Thanking audience members for their generosity, Beardsley said the School’s most urgent resource need is to grow unrestricted support for priorities including financial aid, faculty and infrastructure.

Beardsley said the momentum of recent years has led to the School’s best rankings in history – an outcome Darden recognizes is important in how many prospective students make their decisions for business school.

Among them: No. 1 overall MBA program in a composite review of the Princeton Review ranking, No. 1 U.S. public MBA program by Bloomberg Businessweek, top faculty by The Economist and Princeton Review, No. 1 for carbon footprint by the Financial Times, and world’s top public business school as ranked by Financial Times.

“We have achieved our new position through the hard work and generosity of many, and we must not let it slip through our grasp,” he told the audience. “My goal as your dean is to position Darden not for days of success but decades of success. And your continued support and commitment will make that happen.”

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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