The Collegian
Saturday, May 18, 2024

Former governor brings experience to classroom

Tim Kaine speaking at VCU on November 3rd, 2009, the day before election day
Tim Kaine speaking at VCU on November 3rd, 2009, the day before election day

Former Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine returned to his career as an educator, teaching law and leadership at the University of Richmond Jan. 11, six days before his term in office ended.

"I have always been a believer in the power of education, and I am thrilled to be rejoining the faculty of the University of Richmond," he said at a press conference. "I look forward to contributing to the next generation of legal scholars and leaders, while helping the University of Richmond advance The Richmond Promise."

Kaine taught courses at Richmond in legal ethics and professional responsibility for six years, before his election to public office. He said in an interview that he chose to rejoin the faculty for multiple reasons.

"I taught at the law school from 1987 to 1993 and really enjoyed my interactions with UR students then," he said.

"Leadership Breakthroughs," Kaine's course offering to undergraduate students in the Jepson School of Leadership Studies, examines American life and leadership advancements from the 1930s to the 1950s and analyzes contemporary issues such as health-care reform.

Kaine welcomed the transition to the classroom on Monday.

"I taught my first class two days ago and enjoyed the great discussion my 13 students and I had about Harry Truman's life up to the point when he became president of the United States," Kaine said.

Kaine delivered the commencement address during Richmond's 2009 ceremony, and he told the graduates that the current generation of college students made him a lot more optimistic about the world, because of their openness to diversity, commitment to public service and sense of resilience.

Kaine's appointment to the university's faculty is a part-time term appointment with no tenure. He will teach one course each semester, most likely alternating between the university's T.C. Williams School of Law and Jepson School of Leadership Studies.

He said he would also focus on advancing the university's strategic plan for 2009-2014, The Richmond Promise.

"I am extremely impressed with Ed Ayers and the vision he has for how UR can interact with the broader Richmond community," Kaine said in an interview.

Aside from his job at the university, he travels and works as chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

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"While I am excited about my new role in helping our great president by leading the oldest political party in the world, I am equally excited to rejoin our neighbors in Ginter Park, return to the classroom at the University of Richmond, and just be 'Tim' again," he told the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Kaine was elected to office in 2005 and concluded his term with a State of the Commonwealth address on Wednesday Jan. 13. Virginia law bars governors from holding consecutive terms in office.

Thad Williamson, assistant professor of Leadership Studies, said he thought it was refreshing to have a national political leader - the head of the DNC - who was interested in talking about substantive ideas and big-picture questions.

"[Kaine] is interested in talking with and gaining the perspectives of young people, as opposed to spending all his time raising money and chasing votes," Williamson said.

Students have already expressed interest in Kaine's course at the law school next semester. John Douglass, dean and professor of law, said he had already heard from dozens of students who had wanted to sign up for Kaine's class in the fall.

The Jepson School faculty also expressed the significance of Kaine's presence.

"It's extremely exciting for the Jepson School to have such a prominent state and national leader teaching our students," Williamson said. "Gov. Kaine is someone who got into politics for the right reasons - to help people - and he brings to Jepson a lot of practical insight and experience about how you balance moral values with political hardball."

Kaine, who has lived in Richmond for 25 years, served as a leader-in-residence at the Jepson School while he was mayor of Richmond in 1999.

He will bring his political experience as mayor, governor and head of the DNC, to bear on such big-picture questions that "Leadership Breakthroughs" will focus on, Sandra Peart, Jepson School dean said.

During his term, Kaine visited campus to talk about leadership with Jepson students and faculty, and he advised students interested in pursuing political careers to spend some time gaining life experiences outside of the political arena. Kaine didn't enter politics until he was 34.

"One day I got mad at my city councilman and decided to run for office," he said. "I brought a lot of life experiences with me."

Kaine said he had understood the need for resiliency that was necessary for leadership breakthroughs.

"I've got some leadership experiences and some scars," Kaine told the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Joanne Ciulla, professor and one of the founding faculty members of the Jepson School, said she valued Kaine's skill as a leader and as a teacher. Kaine offers students firsthand knowledge about the challenges and strategies of implementing change, she said.

"Tim Kaine has a warm and engaging personality and a lively mind," she said. "I think that we will all enjoy and benefit from having him on our faculty."

Williamson also described Kaine as an extremely engaging person.

"I'm very happy for our upper-class students to have the opportunity to be in the seminar with Gov. Kaine," Williamson said. "My only regret is that I wish I could take the class, too. That's not possible, but I look forward to having him around and getting to know him better."

Contact staff writer Elizabeth Hardy at

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