New Board Chair Takes Office

| July 12, 2011

Paul Rice, who took office as chair of the Board of Directors July 1, spoke at Sweet Briar’s commencement in May.

Paul Rice, co-founder and former president of the information technology firm PEC Solutions Inc., has succeeded Dr. Virginia “Ginger” Upchurch Collier ’72 as chair of the Sweet Briar College Board of Directors. Collier stepped down this month after serving nine years as a member of the board and as its leader since 2005.

The College marked numerous milestones during her time as chair, including completion of a capital campaign that raised more than $110 million and major new construction projects. Among the most important, however, was the successful transition to the presidency of Jo Ellen Parker, Collier says.

“Ensuring a smooth presidential transition following a highly successful longstanding administration is critical,” she said. “We had a strong leader in Betsy [Muhlenfeld], and we have a strong and visionary leader in Jo Ellen. Each was the right person for the right time.”

Collier’s service has been tireless — including attending every board and committee meeting for the past six years. But despite those and the professional demands of her job as chief of the department of medicine at Christiana Care Health System, she says the time she has devoted to her alma mater hasn’t felt like work.

“It’s been one of the most fulfilling things that I’ve ever done. The opportunity to have an impact on the education of young women, to see the quality of our students and see what they do after they graduate is phenomenal.”

Rice, who joined the board in 2007, takes over as the College is implementing its new strategic Plan for Sustainable Excellence. With technology and entrepreneurial opportunity among the plan’s conceptual cornerstones, Rice’s background as an innovator and leader in information technology is an ideal fit.

He and his partners co-founded PEC Solutions in 1985, taking the company public in 2001. In 2002, they were recognized with a regional Ersnt & Young Entrepreneur of the Year award. Rice retired from the company a year after it was purchased by Nortel Networks in 2005.

Rice now devotes much of his time, expertise and philanthropy to support the arts and education. His activities include serving as a trustee for the University of Virginia School of Engineering and Applied Science Foundation and chair of the boards of the Highland School in Warrenton, Va., and American Children of SCORE, an early music education and performing ensemble. He also is the associate producer of the Tony Award-winning Broadway revival of “Hair.”

His most recent venture is Highland Arts Productions, a small digital media design and film production company whose primary work is marketing non-profits.

Reflecting on the transition to a new chair, President Jo Ellen Parker says Sweet Briar is fortunate in the “leadership and unflagging support” of its Board of Directors. “And as a president I am personally fortunate in having the opportunity to work with, and learn from, leaders like Ginger and Paul. I can imagine no one better positioned to continue in the directions established by Ginger than Paul.”

To read more, see our feature story, Right Person, Right Time, in the Summer 2011 issue of the Sweet Briar Magazine.

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