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Think critically, reason ethically

“Change is certain. Leadership ensures that change is intentional,” reads Jepson’s website.

A quarter of a century ago, Richmond launched the nation’s most ambitious experiment in leadership studies with the creation of the Jepson School of Leadership Studies. As the school completes its 25th year, it’s now a model for leadership programs around the world.

The school’s anniversary has offered a moment for both celebration of its development and reflection on the school’s role as a pathfinder in the study of responsible leadership. It also marks a moment for looking ahead to the next quarter-century and beyond.

“Becoming No. 1 is perhaps a heavy burden, for it requires that you run hard and fast to remain the leaders that we are in this field,” Robert S. Jepson Jr., the school’s namesake and lead benefactor with his wife Alice, said at a celebration in October. “But what a glorious endeavor, to be embraced and nourished along with others for our mutual benefit both now and long into the future.”

For Jepson, who earned undergraduate and master’s degrees from Richmond’s business school in 1964 and 1975, the gift to establish the nation’s first school dedicated to leadership studies was both a continuation of the couple’s philanthropy to the University and an investment in a dream. He said the lessons of leadership that served him well in the companies he built were ones he began learning through opportunities he had at

Richmond as a student.

“I thought much about it after leaving,” he told students during a 2010 talk. He said he asked himself: What if more of them had “the opportunity to learn more about themselves, more about people and how to interact with people, and more about how to change the world for the better?”

In 25 years, the Jepson School has answered that question for more than 1,400 alumni who work in fields as diverse as health care, business,

government, education, and the nonprofit sector. Dean Sandra Peart, speaking at the anniversary celebration, said the school is prepared to continue its tradition of pathfinding.

“There is an urgent need for leadership in all walks of life,” she said. “We will continue to up our game and to be the best teachers and scholars of leadership studies.”