Leading the Way for 30 Years

October 26, 2022

The Jepson School celebrates 30 years as the nation’s premiere school of leadership studies

Laughter and animated conversation emanated from the large, white tent stretched across the entrance to Jepson Hall on Sept. 17. For several days prior, a beehive of workers toiled to erect and transform the tent into a wonderland filled with twinkling strands of lights, plush chairs and sofas, verdant plants, and eye-popping floral arrangements. Now as guests began arriving at 6 p.m. on this picture-perfect late summer evening, a three-piece band played softly while a chef carved up thin, pink slices of beef tenderloin and servers manned stations replete with mouth-watering hors d'oeuvres.

The gala kicked off the 30th anniversary celebration of the Jepson School of Leadership Studies, the nation’s first, and arguably, finest undergraduate school dedicated to the study of leadership. Jepson faculty, staff, students, alumni, donors, and friends joined with University of Richmond dignitaries and visionary benefactors Robert and Alice Jepson to reflect on the School’s first 30 years and anticipate its future.

In her welcome remarks, Dean Sandra J. Peart underscored the benefit of a leadership studies education: “By teaching for and about leadership, we provide tremendous benefits to society. Our democracy needs moral and effective leaders. So, too, do our businesses, nonprofits, schools, hospitals, theatres, and sports teams.”

By teaching for and about leadership, we provide tremendous benefits to society.
Sandra J. Peart

Dean, Jepson School of Leadership Studies

Professor emerita Gill Hickman reflected on the formative years of the School when she and other founding faculty members Joanne Ciulla and Richard Couto met in the basement of Richmond Hall to hammer out an innovative, interdisciplinary curriculum just prior to the School’s opening.

Interim Associate Dean of Academic Affairs Kristin Bezio spoke about how Jepson students would leverage outside-the-box thinking and evolving technologies to become 21st-century leaders.

“The School strengthens the entire University through academic and student programs and convenes Spiders to ethically engage with the broader world,” Richmond President Kevin Hallock told celebrants.

He recounted some of the many national and world leaders who have visited the School since its inception, including Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, who gave the keynote address at the School’s 1992 dedication; former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev; former U.S. senators Robert Dole and George McGovern; Nobel laureate and former South African president Frederik Willem de Klerk; and former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher.

Guests leaned in as the School’s own luminary and namesake, Robert S. Jepson Jr., B’64, GB’75, H’87, took the podium.

“In our lives, all of us look to do something that is so special and so different that it grabs the attention and admiration of the world and makes it a better place,” he said. “In the creation of our School, we have together added much to the world of higher education … [and made] a positive impact on young lives!”

In our lives, all of us look to do something that is so special and so different that it grabs the attention and admiration of the world and makes it a better place.
Robert S. Jepson Jr.

The positive impact of a Jepson School education was evident about an hour later when Dean Peart presented four illustrious alumni—Luke Parsons, ’10, Renée Macbeth, ’00, Kerrissa Richards MacPherson, ’11, and Raegan Williams Morris, ’99—with alumni awards in recognition of their professional accomplishments and volunteer service.

As the evening drew to close and a velvety darkness framed the brightly lit tent, Dean Peart invited guests to raise their glasses in a toast: “As we look forward to the School’s bright future, please join me in thanking Bob and Alice Jepson for pursuing their vision over 30 years ago and for all they have done since to help the School thrive. Here’s to their unwavering enthusiasm and support and to the next 30 years of the Jepson School leading the way!”

Hear! Hear!

Watch the gala video and read about the speakers and alumni honorees.

Robert S. Jepson Jr. chats with leadership studies students during the 30th anniversary celebration.