By Jared Council
Addressing about 1,200 people last week, Old Dominion University President John Broderick touted the school's research prowess, its economic contributions and its fundraising accomplishments.
"We are a community partner that works to improve lives, our region and the world," Broderick said at his State of the University address, held Tuesday at the Ted Constant Center.
"And we are more than 100,000 alumni making a difference locally and globally. Ladies and gentlemen, we are Old Dominion University."
Broderick spoke about ODU achievements since he took the helm in 2008, which include completing or starting approximately $325 million in capital projects, a 75 percent reduction in robberies and the transition of the school's athletic programs to Conference-USA.
He also highlighted the school's work in researching bioelectrics, which deals with the use of electrical fields in manipulating cells. The maturing field has many implications - including cancer treatment - and Broderick acknowledged Richard Heller, who leads the Frank Reidy Research Center for Bioelectrics.
"Promising work in melanoma treatment by Dr. Richard Heller is in clinical trials on the West Coast," Broderick said.
Broderick said retention rates have risen 7 percentage points in the past five years, but noted the school is striving to lower its 21:1 student-teacher ratio. The school had 24,670 students enrolled in fall 2012, including 19,612 undergraduates, making it the largest university in the region.
Broderick made no mention of ODU's six-year graduation rate, which most recently stood at 46.1 percent. That's the fourth-lowest rate among the state's 15 four-year public universities, according to data from the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia. The state average, data show, is about 69 percent.
Broderick broke news during the address when he announced the College of Business and Public Administration is receiving a $10 million gift from the Strome Family Foundation, ODU's second largest gift behind the $32 million Landmark Communications founder Frank Batten Sr. donated in 2003. Landmark Communications, now Landmark Media Enterprise LLC, is the parent company of Inside Business.
Mark Strome, a 1978 ODU civil engineering graduate, manages a Santa Monica, Calif.-based hedge fund.
The gift will establish an entrepreneurial curriculum and a center that's yet to be named, officials said. The curriculum would be available to students across the university and include an introduction course.
The foundation also expects co-curricular programming, which would include the center, lectures, competitions, mentoring and other initiatives.
"We hope to build upon the business school's core competencies and to introduce the availability of entrepreneurial studies to other disciplines within the university," Strome told the university. "Many of the entrepreneurs of tomorrow will come from passions other than just business and we would like to help equip them with the tools to express themselves in entrepreneurial ventures."
Broderick also acknowledged news The Virginian-Pilot broke on the front page that morning about ODU's plans to replace Foreman Field with a 30,000-seat football stadium at the site of the Powhatan Apartments dormitory complex. According to the report, details of funding haven't been finalized, which is a part of a broader master plan for the university.
"I should tell the campus community that despite the big story in the paper this morning, there are some other things in the master plan besides Foreman Field," he said.
Broderick said he's committed to pursuing $200 million-plus in private gifts and public funding over the next four years to help support upcoming initiatives, including the school's first-ever free-standing dining hall along 49th Street.
"When we succeed," he said, "we will have generated in excess of $650 million in private and public funding in about eight years."