Letter from the President
Passing the Baton (or Ball)
By Paul A. Levengood, President and Chief Executive Officer
Charlie Bryan has used the metaphor of a relay race to describe the recent transition at the VHS. I was never fast enough for that
particular sport, but I have played soccer all my life. So I hope you'll permit me to shift from the track to
the field. To recast Charlie's metaphor, the ball has been passed to me, as a teammate of my fellow staff members, trustees,
and all who love this institution. I have never been a flashy player and have always relied on those around me. I know that together we can move the ball down the field, overcoming whatever challenges beset us.
And challenges there are. The dire financial turbulence of recent months has put a sizable dent in our endowment. Plus, the state's budget woes cost us the support for general operations we had once received.
That's the bad news. On the positive side, we can all be proud that the VHS continues to be recognized for its outstanding work. Many of you were held spellbound by Ken Burns at the annual J. Harvie Wilkinson, Jr., Lecture. Or perhaps you have heard that the society received reaccreditation from the prestigious American Association of Museums. Or you know that our careful management earned a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator.
I am mindful that we maintain the momentum of the past two decades, providing the level of excellent programs upon which Virginians have come to rely. In putting together the challenging 2009 budget, we called on every employee for suggestions. I wish you all could see the energy and imagination the staff put into finding savings and new revenue. It has truly been a team effort.
The financial challenges that confront us are great, but the VHS will endure as it has for 177 years. Together, we will work to make sure that we weather this storm and come through it leaner and stronger. And we hope this venerable institution can provide a source of comfort in a world that seems so uncertain.
To revisit my soccer metaphor, it's always rewarding to score a goal, especially after overcoming fearful odds. I am humbled by the chance to receive the ball from Charlie. My gratitude to him for his wise counsel and friendship are boundless. Charlie, I know the entire VHS family joins me in offering a profound "thank you" for your visionary leadership. You have built a great team of which I am proud to be a part.
Posted November 2008
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