Four new individuals, including a vocal critic of the University of Virginia’s current administration, are joining the university’s Board of Visitors.
Gov. Glenn Youngkin said Thursday that he appointed Bert Ellis Jr. of Hilton Head, South Carolina, Dr. Stephen Long of Richmond, Amanda Pillion of Abingdon and Doug Wetmore of Glen Allen to the board. Each will serve a four-year term, which begins July 1.
The Board of Visitors is made up of 17 governor appointments including non-voting student and faculty members.
For Youngkin, the appointments are a chance to exert influence over the university. In May, he called on college presidents in Virginia to make political diversity a priority in hiring. He’s also been critical of the state of free speech at universities.
Ellis, the CEO and chairman of Ellis Capital, wrote in a blog post late last year that he was pleased with Youngkin’s election.
“The most immediate opportunities for the Governor are his selections for the Board of Visitors,” wrote Ellis, who graduated from UVa in 1975. “Over the next four years, he can totally replace the Board with his nominees.”
Ellis wrote the current board was “responsible for letting the University make the outrageous changes that have been made over the tenures of Presidents Sullivan and Ryan.”
Ellis is the current chair of the Jefferson Council, a UVa alumni group that was created in 2021 to promote an academic environment based on open dialogue throughout the university and preserve Jefferson’s legacy, among other goals.
“Governor Youngkin can and will appoint new Board members that reverse this and make the University a place permitting open dialogue on all matters and where education and merit are the managing principles of the University,” he continued. “This is our only opportunity to change/reverse the path to Wokeness that has overtaken our entire University. Meanwhile, we still have a ton of work to fight the ongoing and continuing onslaught by the entrenched DEI bureaucracy at UVA.”
In an interview Thursday, Ellis said he wanted to join the board to affect change and that plans to listen and learn in his first year.
“I’m not going in to make stuff happen on the first day,” he said. “There’s a lot of things to learn and people to meet.”
Ellis also is an investor in The White Spot, a diner on the Corner. He said he’ll step aside from any role or investment that is deemed a conflict of interest for his role as a board member.
The appointments of Dr. L.D. Britt, of Suffolk, Frank M. Conner III of Alexandria, Barbara J. Fried of Crozet and C. Evans Poston Jr. of Norfolk concluded June 30, according to UVa. Only Poston was eligible for reappointment.
“UVA has made great progress toward the goals described in our 2030 Strategic Plan, but we have more to do,” UVa president Jim Ryan said in a statement. “I’m grateful for the service of our outgoing board members toward these efforts, and I am looking forward to collaborating with our newest board members as we continue to work to make the University the absolute best version of itself.”
The Board of Visitors is the governing body for the university, including the medical center, and is responsible for approving budgets, hiring the president and setting policies, among other tasks. The board meets quarterly and will hold a retreat in August, which will be the first meeting for the new members.
Long is an associate clinical professor of anesthesiology at Virginia Commonwealth University and has served on the boards of the VCU Health System and the American Society of Anesthesiologists, according to UVa. Long previously served on the UVa board from 2011 to 2015.
Pillion, a member of the Abingdon Town Council, was part of Youngkin’s transition team. Wetmore is a graduate of the UVa School of Law.
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