John R. Broderick, Old Dominion University's longest-serving president, announced today that he will retire as president in the summer of 2021 after completing his 13th year as leader of the institution. He will continue to work on campus with the Board of Visitors and his successor while holding the title of President Emeritus and Distinguished Lecturer of Higher Education.
"I remain energized daily by this job, especially now, as it requires my full attention nearly every waking hour," he said in a letter sent to the campus community. "...After 40-plus years of marriage, though, I am looking forward to devoting more time to Kate and my family."
President Broderick said he will focus in the next year on steering Old Dominion through the challenges of the coronavirus. During the spring semester, 3,000 courses were transferred online and 3,000 employees transitioned to telework.
"It clearly is a time where we cannot lose sight of our need to support students and one another, including securing resources, as we chart a path that will look dramatically different for the foreseeable future," he wrote. "I assure you - as I did the Board of Visitors - that my commitment will not waver until the ninth president of ODU enters Koch Hall."
President Broderick has repeatedly said that his primary goal has been the success of all students. After he became president, he reorganized the student affairs area into the Student Engagement and Enrollment Services division, and Old Dominion built the $20 million Student Success Center and Learning Commons. The University achieved its highest graduation and retention rates.
Under his leadership, Old Dominion also recorded more than $950 million in new public and private resources. That included a $37 million gift - the largest in the University's history - from former Rector Richard F. Barry III and his wife, Carolyn, to open the Barry Art Museum and an $11 million gift to establish the Strome Entrepreneurial Center and to name the Strome College of Business.
State funding dramatically increased during his tenure, with more than 25 new facilities, including academic buildings for education, chemistry, engineering, art and music, innovation and entrepreneurship, aerospace, spaceflight and autonomy, and the Children's Learning & Research Center. He also expanded and relocated the Schools of Nursing and Public Health to Virginia Beach.
The University boomed as a hub for groundbreaking research, innovation and economic growth, receiving $49 million per year in research funding and contributing $2.6 billion annually to Virginia's economy. In 2018, Pulse Biosciences, a publicly traded company in California, generated $41.6 million in stock shares from Old Dominion's pioneering bioelectrics research to kill cancer cells.
Old Dominion launched centers and initiatives including the Institute for Coastal Adaptation and Resilience, the Center for Global Health, the Center for Cybersecurity Education and Research, the Brooks Crossing Innovation and Opportunity Center, the Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, the Commonwealth Center for Recurrent Flooding Resiliency, the Virginia Institute for Spaceflight and Autonomy, the Hampton Roads Maritime Collaborative for Growth & Innovation, and the Diehn School of Music.
Nationally, he has advocated for social mobility, student access and affordability, campus diversity and inclusive excellence. Old Dominion has become one of the most diverse institutions of higher education in Virginia. In the fall of 2019, the University enrolled about 6,700 African-American students, more than any other public four-year school in Virginia, as well as students from more than 100 countries. The organization Education Trust has ranked Old Dominion among the top 15 universities in the country for African-American student success. He reaffirmed ODU's commitment to affordability by signing more than 200 articulation agreements with community colleges, overseeing the growth of online classes and programs at ODUOnline and establishing the Online Virginia Network, a joint partnership with George Mason.
His honors include the President's Award from the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators, given in recognition of Old Dominion's leadership in social mobility, access and affordability. The University has held two national symposiums and created the Center for Social Mobility, to share strategies for expanding education to lower-income students.
During his tenure, Old Dominion boosted its commitment to STEM-H programs and now ranks second among Virginia's doctoral institutions in the percentage of STEM-H graduates. Old Dominion also has nationally ranked programs in cybersecurity and computer science and has been asked to participate in the Commonwealth's Tech Talent Pipeline initiative.
President Broderick said he timed his announcement to "avoid any distractions to the work of the spring semester," while also allowing the board more than a year to complete the search. "After a short sabbatical, I will return to campus as President Emeritus and assist the board and my successor in closing out any projects and initiatives as they see fit," he wrote.
Lisa Smith, the rector of the University's Board of Visitors, said the members of the presidential search committee will be announced at the board's June 18 meeting.
President Broderick and his wife, First Lady Kate Broderick "have been a tremendous asset to our community and have earned the respect and admiration of ODU's students, faculty and staff, as well as those throughout Virginia," Smith said. "President Broderick has demonstrated unparalleled leadership that has transformed ODU in his 12 years as president and has established a wonderful foundation for ODU's next president."
Austin Agho, Old Dominion's provost and vice president of academic affairs, said: "I am fortunate to have had the privilege of working with someone I greatly admire and respect. I am grateful to President Broderick and Kate for the many ways they have supported faculty, staff and students and champion academic and research excellence at ODU."
Peter Blake, director of the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, said: "President Broderick spoke for the ODU community. His and Kate's dedication to those who otherwise might not have had a chance to excel has changed the trajectory for thousands of students."
Other buildings that opened during President Broderick's tenure include the Barry Arts Building, the 700-seat Broderick Dining Commons (which students voted to name for the Brodericks in recognition of their commitment to diversity and inclusion), the Education Building and the Engineering Systems Building. The soon-to-be-opened 500-bed Hugo Owens residence hall will continue the transformation of the former commuter school to a residential university with an on-campus population in excess of 5,000.
In athletics, he oversaw the return of football to Old Dominion in 2009 after a 69-year absence and the recent rebuilding of S.B. Ballard Stadium. In addition, Kornblau Field, the L.R. Hill Sports Complex, the Mitchum Basketball Performance Center and the Priority Club at S.B. Ballard Stadium were established, the women's volleyball team was created, and the naming rights to Chartway Arena were secured.
But President Broderick has emphasized that the University's priority is academics. In the fall of 2019, 62 percent of ODU's student-athletes earned at least a 3.0 grade point average.
He joined Old Dominion in 1993 as director of public information. He later became an associate vice president and acting vice president. He was appointed acting president of Old Dominion in 2008 and was named president the following year.
In January, President Broderick received a Community Leader Award from the Urban League of Hampton Roads. His other honors include a Humanitarian Award from the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities and a Visionary Award from the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce.
He is chairman of the Council of Presidents of the Southeastern Universities Research Association and past chairman of the Virginia Council of Presidents of colleges and universities.
Ellen Neufeldt, president of California State University San Marcos and former ODU vice president of student engagement and enrollment services, said: "John has been a transformational leader on community engagement, social mobility and student success. He collaborated with regional business leaders to solve local challenges that have a global impact. I also witnessed first-hand how much he cared about every individual and encouraged them to reach their fullest potential."
That's been especially true for students. Isaiah Lucas, president of the Student Government Association, said: "He is truly dedicated to hearing the student's voice and using it as a pillar for the vision he sets for the university. President Broderick has been so inspirational in my life. There are many words that I could use to describe this wonderful man. If I had to choose one, it would be wise."
In his letter announcing his departure, President Broderick said the highlight of his career was shaking the hands of more than 30,000 graduates since 2008. They include all three of his sons.
"On those days, everyone I congratulate represents a successful journey," he wrote. "...When my eyes meet theirs on the stage of Chartway Arena, I see leaders emerging, civic-mindedness expanding and social mobility progressing."
For more information about President John R. Broderick, go to https://www.odu.edu/about/president/bio.