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Cover of Autumn 2002 - Winter 2003 Issue

Celebrating Leadership

Longwood University's three most recent former presidents were honored September 9 with three major buildings on campus named in their honor.

In a ceremony attended by all three, Lancer Hall was named Willett Hall for Dr. Henry I. Willett Jr., president from 1967 to 1981; the library was named Greenwood Library for Dr. Janet D. Greenwood, president from 1981 to 1987; and the dining hall was named Dorrill Dining Hall for Dr. William F. Dorrill, president from 1988 to 1996.
Each building was named for the person who was president when its funding was obtained.

"I stand here a bit humbled by the accomplishments of my three predecessors and grateful for the contributions they have made to the spirit and tradition that is Longwood University," President Patricia Cormier said during the naming ceremony, held under a tent on Brock Commons near Greenwood Library. "Longwood is richer in every respect for the deep and unselfish commitment each brought to this institution. And our recognition is overdue ... I am a better president for having your path to follow."

Dr. Henry Willett and his wife, Mary, display the plaque that will be placed inside the entrance to Willett Hall.
Dr. Henry Willett and his wife, Mary, display the plaque that will be placed inside the entrance to Willett Hall.

Dr. Willett oversaw the transformation of Longwood into a fully coeducational institution. He has lived in Virginia Beach since leaving Longwood and is a senior educational consultant and a retired member of George Washington University's off-campus School of Education, which prepares principals and other school administrators. He taught in that program from 1985 to 2002, though he still teaches some courses. Dr. Willett came to Longwood at the age of 36 (he was the second youngest Longwood president ever) from the Chesapeake school system, where he'd been assistant superintendent for instruction.

"I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Longwood; it was a good time to be there," he said. "I was especially proud of my role in two major changes: the change to co-education and the curricular change away from being primarily an institution for teachers. When I started, Longwood was 95 percent teacher preparation. Plus, there was a tremendous amount of new construction. In the four or five years before I arrived, only Lankford had been built. During my time, the two high-rise residence halls and other buildings were built."

Dr. Greenwood is shown the plaque for Greenwood Library by  Barry Case, rector of the Longwood Board of Visitors.
Dr. Greenwood is shown the plaque for Greenwood Library by Barry Case, rector of the Longwood Board of Visitors.

Dr. Greenwood was Longwood's first female president and the first female president of a public, four-year state institution in Virginia, and at the time she was one of only 22 female presidents of public regional colleges or universities nationwide. She now lives in Arlington and is president and CEO of Greenwood & Associates Inc., an executive search, consulting and training firm that she founded in February. The firm, with its corporate headquarters in Miramar Beach, Florida, has about 40 consultants and locations around the country. After leaving Longwood, she was president of the University of Bridgeport, in Connecticut, for five years, and later worked as a partner and director for Heidrick & Struggles and then as a vice president for A.T. Kearney, both executive search companies based in Northern Virginia. She was only 37 when she came to Longwood after having been vice provost for student affairs at the University of Cincinnati.

"A lot of people didn't know the desperate financial situation Longwood was in when I arrived," she said."As soon as I got there, we had to cut the remainder of that year's budget by one-third to balance the budget. I worked on the organizational structure and brought in team members who could provide leadership, including Phyllis Mable, Don Winkler, Don Lemish and Verna Armstrong, and the faculty was wonderful in working to improve academic programs. I knew we needed a state-of-the-art library, which is at the heart of the academic programs. The State Council of Higher Education turned us down, but Governor Baliles and members of the legislature made it possible. Longwood is a wonderful success story."

Dr. and Mrs. Dorrill.
Dr. and Mrs. Dorrill.

Dr. Dorrill, a political scientist whose specialty is contemporary China and East Asia, was instrumental in increasing Longwood's international student population and expanding study-abroad possibilities for students and faculty with numerous educational institutions around the world. He came to Longwood from the University of Louisville, where he'd been provost. He still lives in Farmville but is hardly retired. "I'm much busier in retirement than I ever thought I'd be, which is nice," he said.

Dr. Dorrill visited China in October 2003 with Dr. John Reynolds, Longwood's director of international affairs, to help initiate Longwood's exchange program with the Anhui University of Technology (seven students from Anhui are now at Longwood), and he returned Oct. 20-28 to China with Dr. Lily Goetz, Dr. Reynolds' interim replacement (he is on sabbatical this year), to visit Anhui, other universities and a college fair for Chinese students who want to study in the United States. He has consulted both in the U.S. and abroad, sometimes for the State Department, and was an adviser to an official U.S. delegation to Libya in April. A few years ago, as part of his involvement with the Salzburg Seminar's University Project, which helped universities in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe move to democracy,
he consulted and lectured in Ukraine and Poland. The day after the naming ceremony, he left for a conference of Taiwan specialists at the University of South Carolina, and last year he visited the Australian National University in Canberra, where he was a Fulbright Scholar 50 years ago. In June his term ended as governor of Rotary International District 7600, which encompasses eastern Virginia.