Ruscio to represent Virginia private colleges in next move

Ruscio plans quick transition to new job starting spring 2017


Photo by Ellen Kanziger '18

President Ken Ruscio

Maria Rachal

W&L President Kenneth P. Ruscio, ‘76, will become president of the Virginia Foundation for Independent Colleges in April 2017, Ruscio announced in an email to the university community on Feb. 17.

The Virginia Foundation for Independent Colleges (VFIC), a not-for-profit organization based in Richmond, represents the interests of Virginia’s 15 privately-run undergraduate institutions, which along with W&L includes the University of Richmond, Roanoke College and Hampden-Sydney College, among others.

The VFIC’s mission statement says that the organization solicits financial support from the private sector in order to ensure an affordable yet personalized education experience for students.

Ruscio said that W&L benefits from the VFIC in terms of support for faculty, students and technology development. The VFIC has also sponsored an annual Ethics Bowl since 2000 as a platform for students from all 15 colleges to debate moral issues, underscoring the role of ethics in each of the members colleges’ curriculums.

“I look forward to being an advocate for private higher education. Virginia has one of the best higher education systems in the country,” Ruscio said. “I think one of the reasons it has one of the best systems is because of the private sector, which is also very strong.”

Although Ruscio will not work closely in his new role with leaders of Virginia’s public colleges, he acknowledged that successes of both the public and private systems in Virginia are linked.

“I think part of the case for advocating for private higher education is that it’s a strong overall system; you can’t keep a strong overall system if one part of it is not strong as well,” Ruscio said.

Ruscio will conclude his decade as university president on Dec. 31 as incoming president William C. (Will) Dudley succeeds him on Jan. 1, 2017. Dudley will join W&L from Williams College, where he obtained his undergraduate degree in 1989, taught philosophy beginning in 1998, and has served as provost since 2011.

Ruscio first announced his planned resignation on May 26, 2015. He initially anticipated ending his term in July following the Class of 2016’s graduation, and taking a year of sabbatical before returning to W&L to teach politics. However, due to Dudley’s constraints with finishing his work as provost at Williams, and Ruscio’s unexpected appointment to the VFIC, Ruscio’s time off will be much shorter than was previously thought. Ruscio said he plans to spend time writing during his brief break between his W&L and VFIC presidencies.

Ruscio said that despite not actively seeking new employment, the VFIC reached out to him in mid to late December following former VFIC President Tom Morris’ decision to retire. Morris had served as VFIC president since 2010 and had previously been president of Emory & Henry College and Secretary of Education for the state of Virginia.

Mary-Beth Johnson, VFIC Chief Operating Officer, is currently functioning as interim president. Johnson said that the VFIC team is looking forward to Ruscio becoming president and only wishes he could move to Richmond sooner.

Early 2017 will not be the first time Ruscio and his wife Kim have lived in Richmond; prior to becoming president at Washington and Lee, Ruscio served as Dean of the Jepson School of Leadership Studies at the University of Richmond from 2002 to 2006. Ruscio said that he and his wife still have friends who live there but they look forward to being just a two hour drive from Lexington.

“We love Lexington, we also love Richmond, so this is the best of both worlds,” he said.

Ruscio said that despite leaving W&L, he will still work closely with the university in his new role and incorporate lessons he learned during his time here in his work.

“My experience at Washington and Lee, not just as president but as a faculty member and as a student, really shaped in me an understanding of private higher education and its importance in this country, not just in the state of Virginia,” Ruscio said. “This is a real opportunity to be a spokesperson for that kind of education and the advantages and benefits that private higher education provide; I’m excited from that standpoint.”