Alumni

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The inauguration ceremony is so special not only because it is formal and ritualistic, but also because it is deeply communal. What do you perceive is most important about such an event?
What’s most important about it for me is that it’s an opportunity for the entire community to celebrate the past, the present, and the future. I do happen to love the pomp and circumstance, and I thought we did that really, really well. I’m just old-fashioned in that way.

Can you describe a favorite behind-the-scenes moment at inauguration, a small moment that not many saw?
My favorite moment was the night before. We had a dinner for family and friends, about 100 people. I went from table to table introducing everyone and telling folks what the connections were. I always enjoy that. I tell stories while I’m introducing everyone. This person sitting over here, for instance, knew this other person’s mom over there. People enjoyed so much just getting to know each other. It was a lot of fun.

We want every student who graduates from the University of Richmond to look back and feel that this is his or her university.

In an op-ed reflecting on the protests this fall at the University of Missouri, you referred back to a line in your inaugural address: “We must now be every bit as thoughtful and purposeful about harnessing the power of our community’s diversity as we have been in creating it.” Can you expand on that?
I was talking about using diversity as a resource to change the culture so that we’re much more inclusive and so that every student thrives here. Some students might do well academically, but they kind of grit their teeth and go through the motions because they feel marginalized by the campus culture. We want every student who graduates from the University of Richmond to look back and feel that this is his or her university.

You’ve been hosting “Coffee with Crutcher” and mentoring students at your house. What are you learning from Richmond’s students?
We’re all learning a lot from each other. For example, I shared my op-ed with my mentorship group when it came out in November, and we had a discussion about it. It was really worthwhile. There are 14 students in the group, and they come from a variety of backgrounds. What was significant about our discussion is that they were able to share their experiences, including some not-great experiences. For instance, one student, an African-American guy in his first semester here, revealed that he hesitated coming to Richmond because he thought this would be just like his high school, which he said was predominately white and very much a “country club” culture.

At a recent “Coffee with Crutcher” session, I heard a lot about a perceived lack of school pride at the University of Richmond, which somewhat surprised me. I also heard about concerns that it is difficult for students without cars to explore Richmond. When I asked about the available shuttle buses, I was told that students often do not want to wait 30 minutes or more for a bus. There were also students who asked whether the University of Richmond could negotiate with vendors in Carytown to make it possible for UR students to use their meal cards in their stores, as is the case for VCU students. I was encouraged by our students’ candor and their eagerness to work in partnership with the University on issues like these.

Official bios note your performances on cello in concert halls, but one of the speakers at the inauguration mentioned that you’ve played in prisons, hospitals, and elementary schools. What motivates your performances in these nontraditional venues?
I got started doing them really by accident. When I was at Miami, a colleague asked me to come and play for her elementary school. I really enjoyed connecting with the students. I just talked with them about the instrument and played some things for them. Subsequently, I played in a quartet that did concerts throughout the summer, including a week of children’s concerts.

When I became the dean at the Cleveland Institute of Music, we instituted a requirement that every chamber music group had to do at least one informance — a performance that is both educational and entertaining — at a nontraditional venue. I thought it was important for students to have the experience because it would take them out of their realm and add meaning to what they were doing.

Many of our students met the requirement by playing at a local cancer center. In a reflection paper at the end of the semester, a student from Switzerland wrote, “For the first time in my life, I felt like there was a reason for me to play the violin.”
My point to the students was always that you don’t play down just because you’re not playing on a concert stage. You always play your best.

You’ve been introduced to Spider football and basketball. Let’s say I’m sitting next to you at the stadium or in the Robins Center — what are we talking about? Are we dissecting the game, chatting about some nonsports topic, or just cheering great plays with the crowd?
I’m rarely talking about the specifics of the game. I’m usually talking about something else. But I’m always watching. Even when I’m in a conversation, I have one eye on the field because I’m quite effusive when something goes well or goes wrong. I’m always looking to make sure I don’t miss anything.