Radford University celebrates inauguration of Bret Danilowicz, Ph.D. as president
Radford University officially inaugurated Bret Danilowicz, Ph.D., as the eighth president in the 112-year history of the institution during a warm ceremony on a chilly Friday morning, Sept. 30, 2022 on the McConnell Library lawn.
“I am formally installing you as the president of Radford University,” said Board of Visitors Rector Debra K. McMahon, Ph.D., as she placed the presidential medallion around Danilowicz’s neck as a gathering of students, faculty, alumni, board of visitors members and other representatives of the Highlander family looked on and applauded.
After taking the oath of office, Danilowicz expressed gratitude to the Radford University community, as well as his own family – his wife Kay Danilowicz; their children, Toran, Brynn, Teagan and Cullen; his parents, Ron and Lucy; and sister, Tanya. “Who ever thought a skinny kid with glasses and a sunny disposition would turn into a president with glasses and sunny disposition,” he joked, on a not-so-sunny, but festive, 51-degree morning to the gathering sitting between him and the fountain at the center of campus.
The president, on his 92nd day in office since taking the position on July 1, shared his goals for the university and provided insights into his personal themes of purpose, people, place and pride. The Four Ps.
“We will build early and purposeful connections between learning and earning, degree and need, flexibility and career,” Danilowicz explained. “Radford University has the responsibility to help meet workforce needs while preparing graduates to be nimble for future employment opportunities and for global citizenship.”
Elevating the support, experiences and outcomes for students is pressing priority in growing Radford University, and in doing so, the president said, “we will generate more stories of pride with each passing year.”
And, “with that expansion of pride comes my confidence that this university, through its employees, alumni and community network, will move Radford University assertively into the next phase of higher education needed by this region, the Commonwealth of Virginia and this nation,” Danilowicz said, standing in front of McConnell Library, a building named for Radford’s first president.
Stepping to the role of president, Danilowicz follows past leaders Brian O. Hemphill, Ph.D., (2016-21), Penelope W. Kyle, J.D. (2005-16), Douglas Covington, Ph.D., (1995-2005), Donald Newton Dedmon, Ph.D., (1972-1994), Charles Knox Martin Jr., Ph.D., (1952-72), David W. Peters, Ph.D., (1938-1951) and John Preston McConnell, Ph.D. (1911-37).
Before Danilowicz’s address, four members of the Highlander community explained their perspective on the president’s Four Ps.
Student Government President Justine McLaughlin said Radford continues to cultivate ways to support students “in their discovery of themselves,” and is “continuously creating space for students to use resources,” and a student-focused faculty at Radford that is “one of a kind.”
Radford is filled with amazing people, said Faculty Senate President and Professor of History Kurt Gingrich, Ph.D., who spoke of the students, faculty, staff, administrators and all the people, past and present, who have and are positioning the university toward fulfilling its mission. “I look forward to working with you,” Gingrich said to Danilowicz. “I look forward to all the people of Radford University working together to ensure that Radford evermore fully fulfills its purpose.”
Representing the City of Radford as its mayor, and also the university as a member of the graduating class of 1990, David Horton said Danilowicz has already begun to enhance the relationship between the city and the university.
“His dedication to community and service will help Highlanders connect and succeed in a host of new possibilities,” Horton said. “His engagement with leadership here in the city of Radford, and the region beyond generates new opportunities for students, and also supports the growth and prosperity of this area, and all the citizens living here.”
As the inauguration ceremony unfolded in the opening stages of Homecoming weekend, as scores of alumni sat attentively in the first rows holding white signs that displayed their graduation years, Radford University Alumni Association President Kevin Rogers said that once he met Radford’s new first family, he “could feel their excitement, school spirit and commitment to our university.
“Bret and Kay,” Rogers continued, “embrace the true spirit of the Radford Highlander, giving hugs, shaking hands, meeting people, and more importantly, listening intently to the stories about our lives here.”
Those words rang true throughout the week as President Danilowicz and Kay, a speech pathologist, opened inauguration week by greeting students and their loved ones during Family Weekend and by walking their therapy dog, Bainne, through the Bonnie Hurlburt Student Center Plaza to greet students gathered in the area for fun and games. They also participated in Radford Gives Back and hosted a pre-inauguration reception in the Covington Center the Thursday night before the inauguration ceremony.
President Danilowicz’s passion for directing Radford University struck a chord with Virginia Secretary of Education Aimee Rogstad Guidera when the two first met.
“We all know that few organizations can be successful and thrive without a strong leader,” Guidera said. “President Danilowicz has the vision experience and positive energy to lead Radford into this next stage of growth and impact.”
Before Danilowicz took the stage for his inaugural address, Laura Belmonte, Ph.D., the dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences at Virginia and a former colleague of the president, assured the gathering that their new leader “will bring his values and wisdom and passion and energy to his presidency and Radford will flourish under his leadership.
“He is a man of integrity and empathy that will make you proud steward of this institution,” Belmonte continued. “He and his wonderful wife, Kay, will work tirelessly on your behalf.