John R. Broderick, Old Dominion University's eighth and longest-serving president, is a constant presence on campus, whether it's to escort a visitor, ride his bike or attend athletic and cultural events.
He has developed a reputation as a friendly, approachable president. But he's all business when it comes to his insistence on forging progress at Old Dominion, solving real-world problems and building on the region's strengths.
Under his leadership since 2008, Old Dominion has emerged as a research leader in fields from cybersecurity to bioelectrics, where the University is pioneering advances in cancer treatment and cardiac procedures.
The University established the Center for the Study of Sea Level Rise in 2010, elevating Old Dominion to the top tier in addressing a significant environmental problem. Since then, Old Dominion has broadened its approach with the creation of the multidisciplinary Resiliency Collaborative, the Commonwealth Center for Recurrent Flooding and Resiliency and the Institute for Coastal Adaptation & Resilience.
President Broderick has also led the University's response to the pandemic, providing students a hybrid approach - in-person or online classes. The University also launched the Rise to the Challenge Fund to help students and employees with unexpected financial challenges.
During his tenure, Old Dominion has received more than $1.2 billion in new public and private resources. The University is pursuing a $250 million fundraising initiative to increase resources for scholarships, faculty research and academic centers, among other areas. Under his leadership, the value of Old Dominion's endowment has grown to $306 million, as of Dec. 31, 2020.
But bucking the "bigger is better" movement, President Broderick has held Old Dominion's enrollment to approximately 24,000 to maximize the quality of the student experience.
President Broderick received the President's Award from the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators in recognition of his commitment to social mobility and student success, particularly with first-generation undergraduates. Old Dominion has hosted four annual Social Mobility Symposiums, drawing academic leaders from across the country. As a result, U.S. News & World Report added a social mobility measure to its college rankings to reward institutions whose students reach higher levels of income after they graduate. Old Dominion was ranked No. 4 in the country in the 2021 Times Higher Education Impact Rankings for reducing inequality and "a top performer on social mobility" by U.S. News in 2020.
To improve academic achievement, Old Dominion constructed a $20 million Student Success Center and Learning Commons. ODU has since recorded the highest graduation rate in its history. The University also has the second-largest percentage of degrees awarded in STEM-H (science, technology, engineering, math and health care) fields among Virginia's research universities.
Students from other disciplines have also flourished.
In 2013, Old Dominion received an $11 million gift from alumnus Mark Strome to create the Strome Entrepreneurial Center, expanding entrepreneurial initiatives for students inside and outside the classroom. In 2017, Old Dominion opened THE Monarch Way, a unique retail store run by students and selling the products of student, alumni, faculty and staff entrepreneurs.
Other centers and initiatives launched during his presidency include the Centers for Global Health, Social Mobility, and Cybersecurity Education and Research, the Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, the Virginia Institute for Spaceflight and Autonomy, and the Diehn School of Music.
In 2018, Old Dominion opened the Barry Art Museum, funded by a $37 million donation - the largest in the University's history - from Richard and Carolyn Barry. The museum is positioned to be one of the region's major cultural destinations.
Also in 2018, Old Dominion launched an expansion of health sciences offerings at its Virginia Beach Higher Education Center, with an increase in nursing classes and the creation of a center focusing on the cutting-edge field of telehealth. ODU this year received funding from the commonwealth and Sentara Healthcare to establish a joint School of Public Health with Norfolk State University and Eastern Virginia Medical School.
In the spring of 2021, Old Dominion opened two buildings - the new Chemistry Building, with 37 labs and the 122-seat Michael and Kimthanh Lê Digital Theater & Planetarium, and Hugo Owens House, a 470-bed residence hall geared to STEM-H students and named for a prominent civil rights leader who was ODU's first African American rector. The University also broke ground on a new $75 million health sciences building on its main campus in Norfolk.
Other buildings that have opened during President Broderick's tenure include:
- Barry Arts Building
- Broderick Dining Commons
- Brooks Crossing Innovation and Opportunity Center
- Education Building
- Engineering Systems Building
The Board of Visitors also renamed the University's Diversity Champion Award for the president in 2013 to recognize his commitment to diversity and inclusion, which has helped create a vibrant, multicultural campus. In the fall of 2020, Old Dominion enrolled more than 7,000 African Americans, more than any other public four-year school in Virginia, as well as students from more than 100 countries. In 2019, Diverse Issues in Higher Education ranked ODU 14th in the nation in the number of African American students who graduate each year.
President Broderick has transformed his belief in community service into a centerpiece of University life. In 2011, he, his wife, First Lady Kate Broderick, and their relatives endowed the Evon-Broderick Award for Community Engagement and Service to recognize students who immerse themselves in service.
In athletics, President Broderick oversaw the return of football to Old Dominion in 2009 after a 69-year absence, adding a rush of excitement to campus. He is past chairman of both the Conference USA and Colonial Athletic Association Boards of Directors and a member of the NCAA Division I Presidents Forum.
But President Broderick has been clear that the University's priority is academics. Seventy-one percent of ODU's student-athletes earned at least a 3.0 grade point average in the spring of 2021.
Old Dominion's benefactors have recognized the president's focus on academic and athletic excellence. About $2.5 million has been raised for four scholarship programs named for the Brodericks, benefiting STEM-H students, women athletes, women volleyball players and rising sophomores and juniors who want to enhance their educational experience.
In the past two years, President Broderick received a Community Leaders' Award from the Urban League of Hampton Roads, the Darden Award for Regional Leadership from the CIVIC Leadership Institute, a 2020 Distinguished 400 Award by the federally established 400 Years of African American History Commission, and the First Citizen of Hampton Roads award from the Chamber of Commerce. President Broderick also has received the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities' Humanitarian Award, the New Journal & Guide's Impacting Lives Award, the Dr. Hugo A. Owens Sr. Humanitarian Award from Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, the Trailblazer Award from Men for Hope, and a Visionary Award from the Chamber of Commerce. Inside Business added President Broderick to its Emeritus Power List, which recognizes senior community leaders who provide a "valuable ongoing contribution." He also was grand marshal of the St. Patrick's Day Parade in Norfolk in 2016.
He is past chairman of the Council of Presidents of the Southeastern Universities Research Association and the Virginia Council of Presidents of colleges and universities. He was the only college president to serve as a member of the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority board for eight years.
President Broderick is a board member of organizations including the Norfolk International Airport Board of Commissioners, Urban League of Hampton Roads, Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Norfolk Corporation and Hampton Roads Partnership. He also championed the University's partnership with the Virginia Symphony Orchestra and served as the guest narrator for the orchestra's tribute in 2019 to the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.
President Broderick, a former journalist, has had articles about sports, education and travel published in outlets such as The Washington Post, The Chronicle of Higher Education, The Baltimore Sun, Trusteeship (publication of American Governing Boards), Champion (publication of the NCAA), The Sporting News, The Boston Globe, The Richmond Times-Dispatch, The Virginian-Pilot and The Hartford Courant. He also has contributed several book chapters about higher education issues.
He will retire as president this summer and will become the Board of Visitors Distinguished Lecturer in the Darden College of Education and Professional Studies.
The Brodericks have three sons who all earned degrees from Old Dominion.