Burke Olsen · June 10, 2011
The Southern Virginia University board of trustees today announced the appointment of Dr. Richard G. Whitehead as acting president effective August 15.
Whitehead has served the university as vice president of institutional advancement since 2003. He will succeed President Rodney K. Smith who announced last month that he had accepted a new position as a distinguished professor of law at the Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego, where he also will direct a new center on sports law and policy.
“Richard Whitehead has been an integral part of the university for eight years and is uniquely prepared to lead during this time of transition,” said Glade M. Knight, chair of the Southern Virginia board of trustees. “He has worked closely with President Smith and has traveled many thousands of miles with him meeting with donors and speaking to groups of supporters and prospective students. He knows the university, its message and the tangible difference it makes in the lives of our students.”
A dental surgeon by profession, Whitehead’s career includes four decades in support of higher education. Immediately prior to coming to Southern Virginia, Whitehead served as a mission president in England for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“I love Southern Virginia University and pledge my all to the students, faculty and staff,” Whitehead said. “Although I will not put my hat in the ring for the permanent position, I am happy to serve as interim president so that a seamless transition can take place during this important part of Southern Virginia’s history. I look forward to this opportunity to serve the university and to raise awareness of the benefits of the genius of small.”
Whitehead received an associate degree from Dixie State College, a bachelor’s degree from Brigham Young University, a doctorate of dental surgery from Creighton University and did an internship in oral surgery at the University of Maryland.
For 29 years, he was closely associated with Dixie State College where he was co-founder and member of the National Advisory Council, president of the Alumni Association, member of the board of trustees and president of the college’s foundation. Until 1988, he volunteered his time and then was hired part-time to chair the capital campaign. In 1993, he became a full time employee, but still practiced dentistry one day a week.
In 1997, Whitehead left dentistry to devote his full attention to higher education as the executive director of institutional advancement at Dixie State College. In 2000 the Utah State Board of Regents awarded him an honorary doctorate.
Since 1976 he has served as a member of the Creighton University School of Dentistry Advisory Board.
Whitehead’s wife, Launa, is an assistant professor of music at Southern Virginia where she teaches music history and directs the university’s flute choir.
The Whiteheads have six children and 18 grandchildren, and reside in Buena Vista, Va.
“Working with Richard has been a great joy in my life,” said President Smith. “I have come to respect him greatly for his wisdom and commitment to Southern Virginia University. He will serve exceedingly well as acting president.”