The pair of lead stories in this issue of the magazine connects and commemorates two deeply consequential times in the history of Longwood’s campus.
The first is the “Great Fire” of Ruffner and Grainger, 15 years ago this spring, an event that broke hearts across the entirety of the Longwood family, certainly including my own, and will never be forgotten. Truly, a lesser institution might never have recovered. But thanks to the leadership of President Cormier and many others whose work is recounted in these pages, the fire ultimately proved a crucible from which Longwood emerged manifestly stronger. Our great Rotunda was rebuilt, and the opening of the Maugans Alumni Center this past September marked the complete restoration of all of the parts of campus affected by the fire.
The second consequential period has been coming to culmination recently. The powerful efforts since 2001 after the fire prepared Longwood to imagine the future, and, soon after I became president, the university set out on a comprehensive new master planning process to develop and articulate a vision for our campus through 2025 and beyond.
We began with a few starting principles. The first was that Longwood should be “the same but better.” The scale and feel of Longwood are deeply right for our mission of cultivating citizen leaders in a close-knit campus community. We likewise wanted to make sure our faculty and students have the facilities they need to prepare graduates for life and work in the 21st century—but through building on the strength of the classical beauty of our central campus. And lastly, we wanted to develop creative ways to more closely knit the campus together with surrounding Farmville, where there is so much momentum, and to help the community reach its full potential as one of America’s great college towns.
The plan that emerged is the product of literally hundreds of hours of meetings, research and discussion directed by our planning team, under the able leadership of Dick Bratcher, capping his distinguished Longwood career of several decades with this important assignment. We have called the plan “Place Matters.” The title rejects the cacophony of voices these days that suggest that little would be lost if higher education retreated fully to “the cloud.” Certainly, technology is a valuable tool for advancing our traditional mission. But for the work of shaping citizen leaders, it matters enormously that students, faculty and staff be together in spaces that facilitate face-to-face conversation, and that inspire.
A master plan is never executed precisely as drawn up; rather it is a road map that captures our needs, priorities and overall vision for the years to come. I hope you will enjoy learning about the vision that has emerged to make Longwood “the same but better.” Beyond the article in this issue, you can find more detail at the website “placematters.longwood.edu.”
W. Taylor Reveley