Hanover County man is first black rector at UVa

After a turbulent summer for University of Virginia’s Board of Visitors last year with the attempted ouster of UVa President Teresa Sullivan, a Hanover resident was named the university’s rector July 1.

Kings Charter resident George Keith Martin now serves as rector at the University of Virginia.

Kings Charter resident George Keith Martin now serves as rector at the University of Virginia.

George Keith Martin, an active Richmond attorney, is also the first black rector in UVa’s history. Martin is filling the shoes of former rector and current board member Helen Dragas who spearheaded the ousting of Sullivan last summer.

When Martin attended UVa in the 1970s, he was one of 250 black students in the Cavalier community. The university was founded in 1819 and did not start accepting black students until the 1950s.

“My time at the University of Virginia was truly special and, indeed, it changed my life,” he said.

As a minority student, Martin said his overall experience at UVa was “positive” and the hardest part of his college career was trying to juggle his student responsibilities along with his active involvement in organizations and groups.

Martin received an undergraduate degree in speech communications in 1975 before receiving a law degree from Howard University of Law in 1978.

Even long after graduation, Martin said, there is some thing that keeps alumnus like him attached to UVa. Martin said he and some of his former classmates call it the university’s “secret sauce.”

Martin has remained involved with the university. He served as a Board member and before becoming rector, Martin was appointed the Board’s vice rector in September 2012.

When Martin is not in Charlottesville for UVa business or in Richmond working at the law firm McGuireWoods LLP, he can be found in the Kings Charter area of Hanover.

“We love our subdivision so much, we’ve built two houses in that subdivision,” Martin said.

He and his wife built their first Kings Charter house in 1977 but have lived in their second home for about 11 years, he added.

When Martin first moved to the county, he said the citizens caught his attention.

“The people impressed us the most,” he added.

The county’s schools and government also made an impression on Martin. He noted the county as being “user-friendly” and described the schools as “top-notch.”

With the new school year just around the corner, Martin said one of his goals as the new rector, is to break up the board members into smaller committees that will all meet “concurrently,” honing in on specific issues. For instance, there will be a technology committee.

“People will have to trust each other,” he said referring to the fact that each member won’t be able to attend every meeting.

Despite the controversy recently associated with the position of UVa rector, Martin is not focusing on past conflicts.

“I’m looking forward and that’s all we can do,” Martin said.

Looking ahead to the new school year, the Board of Visitors and Martin have high hopes.

“We’re optimistic about our future,” Martin said. “I think the President and her team are doing an excellent job.”

Posted on Thursday, August 15, 2013 at 10:22 am