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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

Old Dominion Board of Visitors Unanimously Elects New University Rector

During its regular quarterly meeting, held Sept. 22, the Old Dominion Board of Visitors unanimously elected Carlton F. Bennett to serve as rector for the 2016-2018 term. In addition, board members Lisa B. Smith and Yvonne Allmond were elected vice rector and secretary, respectively.

Bennett, a 1972 Old Dominion University alumnus, and partner in the Bennett and Sharp law firm, was appointed to the Board of Visitors on July 1, 2014. He served most recently as chair of the Academic and Research Enhancement Committee and as a member of the Student Enhancement and Engagement Committee. As rector Bennett will chair the board's Executive Committee.

To learn more about Bennett, visit his Board of Visitors bio page.

The board also welcomed new members Larry R. Hill '78, owner of L.R. Hill Custom Builders in Virginia Beach; R. Bruce Bradley '78, the retired president of Landmark Publishing Group and former publisher of The Virginian-Pilot; Toykea S. Jones '03, Johnson & Johnson's senior manager of manufacturing excellence for the North America region; and Kay A. Kemper '80, who founded Kemper Consulting after leaving Old Dominion University where she was the first woman to serve as a vice president. The new members were appointed by Governor Terry McAuliffe in July for two-year terms that expire in 2020.

In other business, the board voted unanimously to adopt a resolution establishing a foundation for the Barry Art Museum that will be built across Hampton Boulevard from the new College of Education building.

The foundation will oversee the acquisition and management of the planned museum's art collection that will include paintings and glass works owned by benefactors Richard and Carolyn Barry, whose more than $35 million donation will fund construction and operating costs for the museum.

During the University's Student Enhancement and Enrollment Committee meeting, students Matthew Thomas and Roy Bernard, both of whom are programming assistants in the Office of Student Engagement and Enrollment Services, explained the purpose of the new ODUnited Committee, which is intended to "go beyond the conversation of diversity and inclusion, and to take the necessary steps to unify the Old Dominion University student body."

In introducing Thomas and Bernard, SGA President Rachael Edmonds noted that "we are trying to change culture on campus to be more inclusive."

The committee seeks to create a unified culture with the University's diverse student body that will allow students from all walks of life to feel welcome. The committee will help facilitate student-to-student town hall meetings on diversity and inclusion, as well as organize educational programs that help bridge the gaps between diverse groups on campus.

Thomas said work to establish the committee began in 2015 and was further ramped up during a workshop held this year to discuss collaboration in which 150 students participated. Interest was furthered with recent vigils that were held to remember and show support for the victims of violent acts that impacted African-American, police and LGBTQ communities this summer.

"Every time we have a vigil someone walks up and asks, 'what's next?,'" he said. "We envision this to be what's next."

The ODUnited Committee was introduced during recent Week of Welcome activities to help new students understand what inclusivity means, Bernard said. He added that "the goal is to empower the student body. To let them have the conversation and move forward with uniting the University."

Thomas added: "We want to create a safe space for students to talk to other students" in order to create programs and workshops to improve their experience at ODU.

"We are challenging students to have these difficult conversations about diversity and inclusion," Bernard said. ODUnited is "complementing all the efforts the University has made. We are empowering students. We want to create a culture on campus to allow all students from all walks of life to feel included."

The University's new rector Carlton Bennett, who is a member of the committee, commended the effort.

"If we could mirror this on a national basis we could eliminate a lot of problems," he said.

Committee chairwoman Lisa B. Smith added that it is "amazing to see how involved students are here and the leadership roles you've taken on. To see everyone working together is a wonderful thing."

The ODUnited Committee's first town hall meeting for students is scheduled to take place on Sept. 28 at 7:30 p.m. in the Batten Arts and Letters Building, room 1012. The topic of the discussion is "A Conversation to Take Necessary Steps Towards a More Unified Campus."

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