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Whitehead named interim president at Southern Virginia University

By Burke Olsen

For Mormon Times

Published: Friday, June 10 2011 1:45 p.m. MDT

BUENA VISTA, Va. — Dr. Richard G. Whitehead, who has been the vice president of institutional advancement since 2003, will be the interim president of Southern Virginia University effective Aug. 15, the university's Board of Trustees announced Friday.

Whitehead 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 will also 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’s 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, who reside in Buena Vista, Va., have six children and 18 grandchildren.

“Working with Richard has been a great joy in my life,” said Smith. “I have come to respect him greatly for his wisdom and commitment to Southern Virginia University. He will serve exceedingly well as interim president.”

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