October 21, 2022
By Amber Kennedy
Old Dominion University celebrated the graduation of President Brian O. Hemphill’s PhD in Homping weekend with a historic research ceremony, the launch of a capital campaign and the launch of the annual “Monarchs Give Back” community service project.
President Hemphill was installed as Old Dominion University’s ninth president by Bruce Bradley 78, director of the Board of Visitors, during an investiture ceremony at Chartway Arena on Friday morning. Bradley presented the President’s Medal in front of an audience of students, faculty, staff and representatives from higher education institutions and the community, and Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Austin Ago, Ph.D., presented the Academic Mace.
“Brian is great at these times, because we’re at a starting point and we’re entering a period of great opportunity,” Bradley said.
Reflecting on his first year at the university, President Hemphill said, “As we begin this journey together on July 1, 2021, we are committed to excellence, accountability, transparency and student-centeredness. Proven success in creating access and opportunities are the foundation of our efforts and will guide us as we move forward together.
President Hemphill said higher education is changing.
“Now we can let higher tuition, growing student debt, enrollment chasms, value propositions, or a challenging post-Covid environment define us and limit our opportunities, or we can embrace innovation and opportunity,” he said. “And in turn, we will be an institution that is forward-looking in our research, forward-looking in our teaching and forward-looking in our service.”
“Universities that engage in new approaches and changes in vision will remain at the forefront of these difficult times. I promise that Old Dominion University will be one of the leading institutions.”
During his tenure in higher education, President Hemphill has led a profound transformation of campuses that strive to set themselves apart through diversity, shaping every experience to lead at ODU. President Hemphill’s higher education service began with student affairs administrative roles at the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville and Northern Illinois University before assuming the presidency at West Virginia State University. Before coming to ODU, he served as the seventh president of Radford University.
Throughout President Hemphill’s career in higher education, his colleagues have described his energy, courage, and transformational leadership.
President Hemphill shared his desire to become a university president 20 years ago when he met friend and colleague Derek Gragg, Ph.D.
Gregg, the Combe Family Vice President for Athletics and Recreation at Northwestern University, shared memories of his time working with President Hemphill at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. “I immediately liked the energy,” he said. “I admire his commitment and tenacity, and I can see in his eyes that this guy really means business.”
President Hemphill’s opening address introduced the theme of his presidency: “Forward-Focused: Inspiring Innovation.” In the campus’s first year, this theme was put into practice. President Hemphill has led hundreds of entities through the strategic planning process, developing a roadmap for the next five years. At the Distinguished Alumni Dinner on October 20, President Hemphill announced a capital campaign aimed at raising $500 million for scholarships, research, faculty hiring, campus facilities and more.
In the year By the end of 2021, the university was named a Research 1 Institution by the Carnegie Institution for Higher Education, placing ODU among the top research institutions in the United States. The prestigious designation creates opportunities for the university to attract students, faculty and funding.
President Hemphill has created partnerships to benefit the community, including two projects targeting health disparities in Hampton Roads. In the year In August 2021, President Hemphill joined Eastern Virginia Medical School President Alfred Abuhamad, MD, and Norfolk State University President Javaun Adams-Gaston, PhD, in a memorandum of understanding to partner for a future school of public health. In December 2021, President Hemphill and Dr. Abuhamad committed to exploring the integration of EVMS and ODU to form an academic health sciences center.
Over the next five years, ODU will continue to address workforce development needs by adding a School of Supply Chain, Logistics and Maritime Operations and leading the 757 Regional Internship Collaborative. The campus continues to evolve; A five-story, 160,000-square-foot biology building is slated to open in 2026, and President Hemphill recently announced construction will begin on an expanded baseball facility known as the Elmar Family Baseball Complex.
In athletics, President Hemphill won the Sun Belt Conference by expanding opportunities for student-athletes to compete against regional competitors.
To mark the anniversary, President Hemphill and First Lady Marisela Rosas Hemphill, Ph.D., launched Monarchs Give Back, an annual effort to highlight the university’s commitment to partnering with the Hampton Roads community. This year, the Royal Society collected non-perishable food items to benefit food insecure children, particularly those in Norfolk City Public Schools.
President Hemphill was joined by colleagues from 35 higher education institutions across Virginia and the nation at the ceremony. A procession of fully clothed faculty was led by university marshal Helen Crompton, Ph.D.
West Virginia University President Gordon G. Eddy, who has led five universities, reflected on the role of a university president in his keynote address.
“You have a responsibility to set the tone at the top on campus and ensure that the university’s vision and values are not just words on a page, but are lived by every member of the community every day,” he said. “I learned that our role is to fix things before they go wrong.
“Leading means engaging all of your campers in asking the essential question: Why are we here?”
Under his leadership, President Hemphill said ODU will “serve as a model for innovation, discovery, excellence, and growth through a focus on research, teaching, and service.”
“When we do this, something special will happen on this campus. We will transform Old Dominion University,” he said. “Together we will advance ODU to national and international prominence.”