VCU Installs Michael Rao as its Fifth President

Virginia Commonwealth University today officially installed Michael Rao, Ph.D., as its fifth president in an inauguration ceremony at the Siegel Center on the university’s campus.

Faculty in academic regalia joined students, staff, alumni and visitors as VCU Rector Tom Snead and VCU Provost Beverly Warren presented the presidential medallion to Rao.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, the event’s keynote speaker, helped to commemorate the occasion, praising VCU’s achievements and urging the university to build on its successes.

“Through a combination of scholarship, research and creativity, VCU has become a leading example of how an urban university can be both a center of learning and a center of the community,” Duncan said. “My challenge today to President Rao, to the faculty and to the students is this: Build on what VCU is right now to become a world-class university that leads your state and our nation.”

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell told the audience that Rao has demonstrated integrity, a strong work ethic and an infectious enthusiasm since he arrived at VCU two years ago.

“I know that the real measure of success for him is the fact that VCU is increasingly becoming known as one of America’s premier urban research universities,” McDonnell said.

In his inaugural address, Rao pointed to VCU’s past as a source of inspiration, and issued a challenge for its future.

“We will be exceptional,” Rao said. “We will solve problems. We will find the answers our state, our nation and the world so desperately need. It won’t be about lofty abstractions. It will be about the immediate and intense needs of people.”

He also talked about the university’s new strategic plan, the Quest for Distinction, which places heavy emphasis on student success, academic excellence, research and human health.

During the ceremony VCU launched a new tradition by recognizing the inaugural class of "University Scholars," current undergraduate students who have completed 54-84 credits and have attained outstanding academic achievement.

The inauguration was the showcase for two weeks of events at VCU that included a research lecture series, a university-wide food drive and student events that highlighted sustainability efforts at VCU.

Rao arrived at VCU in 2009. Under his guidance, VCU has been designated in the top research category by the Carnegie Foundation, which had already bestowed VCU with its community engaged distinction. VCU is one of only 28 public universities in the country with an academic medical center to achieve this prestigious dual distinction.

Launched by Rao in 2011, the university’s strategic plan, Quest for Distinction, sets priorities of academic excellence, research that enhances the quality of life, human health and well-being, and contributions to the economic vitality and cultural richness of the community. Specific initiatives include the continued recruitment of high-quality faculty and resource development aimed at enhancing the overall student experience.

In his capacity as president of the VCU Health System, Rao heads one of the nation’s most comprehensive academic health centers, which is ranked among the best hospitals in the country as well as the No. 1 hospital in the Richmond-metro area by U.S. News & World Report.

Rao assumed the presidency of VCU and the VCU Health System after serving as president of Central Michigan University for nine years. Prior to his tenure as one of the longest serving presidents in Michigan, Rao led two other institutions where he helped establish effective academic and physical master plans.

Rao holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of South Florida and a Ph.D. from the University of Florida.