Former U of L president Ken Garren looks back on legacy of change

Local News

LYNCHBURG, Va. (WFXR) — Dr. Ken Garren’s time as president of the University of Lynchburg is probably best summarized with a quote from his college history professor.

“He always said it wasn’t the strongest or the fastest that survive through the ages, but those that change with the environment.”

After 19 years as president of the University of Lynchburg, Garren retired at the end of July. He entered Lynchburg College and left the University of Lynchburg, a change that still gets push-back.

Garren says he thought it was important the name reflects the fact that they have graduate degree programs as well as address the perception internationally that college is a high school equivalent. According to Garren, that was something the William and Mary president later argued when he also suggested changing the college’s name.

“It was the president saying, ‘We’ve got to stop calling ourselves college because I’m tired of sending our faculty over to other countries and having to convince them we’re not a high school,'” said Garren, “and it’s like, yeah, he’s using my same argument! The guy is plagiarizing me!”

That name change reflects the expansion of graduate health science programs, an expansion Garren says is his proudest accomplishment.

“That was the most significant thing I think that’s been done during my 19 years at that institution.”

More change came to the university last fall when some white students dressed up as Mexican stereotypes for a party. That led to a student walk-out and a list of demands, which included hiring more faculty members of color and bias training for students.

“We got set into motion a task force that was addressing every one of their concerns. I think it was important. There it is again, it’s change.”

Joan Foster is a graduate, serves on the University’s board, and worked closely with Garren during her time as Mayor of Lynchburg. She says he leaves behind a strong legacy.

“He grew the university. He grew the student population there, and he also could do the Hornet Hop like no one else could!”

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