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2012 News Releases
Longwood President Patrick Finnegan resigns for health reasons
May 15, 2012
Longwood University President Patrick Finnegan, who has been on leave due to health reasons for several weeks, has submitted his resignation to the university's Board of Visitors effective June 30.
According to Longwood's standard procedures, Dr. Ken Perkins, interim vice president for academic affairs, will continue to serve as acting president. The Board of Visitors will meet soon to appoint an interim president and to discuss the strategy and process for selecting Longwood's new president.
An Army brigadier general, Finnegan was named Longwood's 25th president on July 1, 2010, after serving 11 years as a law professor and administrator at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. From 2005-10, he was dean of the Academic Board, West Point's chief academic officer.
Stepping down as Longwood's president after just two years in office was a difficult but necessary decision, Finnegan said, adding that it doesn't mean he is leaving Longwood behind.
"I said in my inauguration speech that I will be a Lancer forever, and that statement is as true today as it was then," said Finnegan. "Joan and I will always be grateful that we had the privilege of becoming part of the Longwood family. I am proud of the strides the university has made over the last two years."
Speaking for the Board of Visitors, Rector Marianne Radcliff '92 said Finnegan accomplished much in a short time and that he would be greatly missed.
"It is with great sadness that the Board of Visitors accepted President Finnegan's resignation," said Radcliff. "From Pat's first days as president, his joy at being a Lancer and his vision for Longwood inspired excitement throughout campus, from freshman students to long-tenured faculty members."
Finnegan did achieve some of that vision, and his legacy at Longwood will be a lasting one, touching the lives of many future generations.
Among his accomplishments are the creation of an academic strategic plan through a campuswide collaborative process; securing membership in the Big South Conference for Longwood's Division I athletics program; focusing attention on the need to make faculty and staff salaries more competitive and beginning the process of allocating additional resources to that need; gaining board approval for the location of an alumni center on campus; creating an Office of Sponsored Programs and Research to seek funding for the faculty's scholarly activities; and increasing the number of international students on campus.
"President Finnegan was the drive behind the academic strategic plan," said Perkins. "Higher education in Virginia is highly competitive, and he recognized that we have to identify our strengths-and take market forces into consideration-as we shape our programs for the future."
Finnegan also recognized that making faculty and staff salaries competitive is key to Longwood's future. Toward that end, Longwood commissioned the Sibson Consulting Division of the Segal Company to conduct a university wide salary study as a first step in addressing compensation issues. Finnegan also worked with the Board of Visitors to establish a Compensation Task Force charged with developing an action plan to make salaries more competitive.
Another critical effort in which Finnegan was instrumental was Longwood's search for a Division I athletics conference. After extensive discussions and negotiations, the Big South Conference extended an invitation to Longwood on Jan. 23, 2012. Joining the Big South, which is effective July 1, will give Longwood better opportunities to participate in NCAA postseason play as well as to develop rivalries with the three other Virginia members of the conference.
Athletics Director Troy Austin said Finnegan played a critical part in securing Longwood's invitation to join the Big South.
"Early in his tenure, President Finnegan worked to develop relationships with other Big South presidents and key officials, which I believe was instrumental in achieving our ultimate goal-membership in the Big South," said Austin.
The most visible legacy of Finnegan's presidency will be a new alumni center, which, after gaining state approval, is planned to occupy the ground floor of Blackwell Hall as part of that building's renovation. At its March 2012 meeting, the Board of Visitors approved a modification to the Campus Master Plan that paves the way for the new center, which will be named the Frank O. and Katharine Allen Maugans Alumni Center. Katharine Maugans '46 bequeathed $2.5 million to Longwood to support the center.
The most enduring legacy of Finnegan's presidency, however, may well be the connection he created with Longwood students.
From the outset, Finnegan made it clear that students were his No. 1 priority -and that he expected the same commitment from everyone who worked at Longwood.
In a Longwood magazine article printed shortly after he took office, Finnegan said that "we have to keep in mind that our main focus is the students. ... [W]hether we're thinking what's the next building project were going to do, the fundraising we're going to do, or whatever it is. ... If we do that, you're not going to get off track as much."
It is clear that Finnegan loves Longwood students. Whether covered in red and green paint during Longwood's annual Color Wars, drenched in water after taking a fall in a Spring Weekend dunking booth or caught up in the moves of a flash mob dance to support a student fund-raiser for muscular dystrophy, Finnegan has consistently shown that students are high on his list.
"A lot of students see him as that fatherly figure-someone they can look up to. They gained that sense from his being so involved and really putting students first," said 2011-12 Student Government Association President Brandon Fry '12 of Smithfield. "The best thing is that we had a president who bought into the concept of the citizen leader. It's something all students are taught from day one at Longwood-that they are to become a person who makes a difference in their community. President Finnegan was that perfect role model."