History of the Jepson School of Leadership Studies

The Jepson School of Leadership Studies was founded to help students better understand leadership so that they can become active, thoughtful, and effective participants in their world. The thinking behind the creation of the School and details about its inception are captured in "Draft No. 4," which was approved by faculty and University leaders as a blueprint for the curriculum and approach. The School opened in 1992 and graduated its first class in 1994. The program is housed in Jepson Hall.


: Robert S. Jepson, Jr., '64, and his wife, Alice, announce their intent to provide a $20 million challenge gift to develop a leadership studies program.

1990-92: Founding faculty members begin designing the curriculum.

1992-93: The first class enters. General Norman Schwarzkopf is at the dedication of Jepson Hall. Former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev is among the year’s keynote speakers and the School helps organize the 1992 Bush-Clinton presidential debate on campus.

1994-95: Students develop a two-week summer program for emerging high school leaders.

1995-96: Dr. Thomas Wren publishes "The Leader’s Companion: Insights on Leadership Through the Ages."

1996-97: The Jepson Leadership Forum is established as a formal lecture series.

2001-02: Pulitzer Prize-winning scholar James MacGregor Burns rejoins the faculty.

2002-03: The School assists in the formation of the Virginia Leadership Association, a consortium of directors of community leadership programs across the commonwealth.

2003-04: The School celebrates 10 years.

2004-05: W.M. Keck Foundation Awards the Jepson School and two other universities a $400,000 grant for a national leadership project, the Keck Initiative.

2008-09: The John Marshall International Center for the Study of Statesmanship is established.

2010-11: Students receive summer research grants. Nobel Laureate F. W. de Klerk, the former president of South Africa who was instrumental in bringing apartheid to a peaceful end, discusses the important lessons of managing change and leadership.

2011-12: The Zuzana Simoniova Cmelikova Visiting Scholar Program in Leadership and Ethics begins. Students conduct a total of 14 leadership assessments for Richmond-based companies and nonprofits. The Jepson Alumni Corps is established.

2012-13: The School celebrates its 20th anniversary.

2013-14: The School unveils a portrait of benefactors Robert S. Jepson Jr. and Alice Andrews Jepson that will hang permanently in Heilig-Meyers Lounge in Jepson Hall.

2014-15: The Jepson team finishes in the top 10 at the National Ethics Bowl competition.

2015-16: The School launches the Science Leadership Scholars Program in conjunction with the School of Arts & Sciences.

2016-17: Dr. Gill Hickman receives the International Leadership Association’s Leadership Legacy Lifetime Achievement Award.

2017-18: The School celebrates its 25th anniversary.

2018-19: The School launches the Jepson Scholars Program, with Sabrina Escobar Miranda, '19, as the inaugural Jepson Scholar.

2019-20: The School inducts its largest class to date, comprising 98 sophomores and 7 juniors.

2020-21: The School creates the Gary L. McDowell Institute, which includes a student fellowship program. 

2022-23: The School celebrates its 30th anniversary.