Ed Ayers and Gilbert Bland
Ed Ayers and Gilbert Bland

Edward Ayers, one of the nation’s most accomplished historians and university presidents, and noted entrepreneur and Commonwealth civic leader Gil Bland will address Longwood University’s graduating students during commencement weekend May 19-20.

Ayers served as president of the University of Richmond from 2007-2015 and was awarded the National Humanities Medal in 2012 in a White House ceremony. He will deliver the keynote address at Longwood’s undergraduate ceremony on Wheeler Mall on Saturday, May 20.

Bland, whose extensive record of public service has included chairing the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, will address graduate students the night before, Friday, May 19, at the ceremony for the university’s College of Graduate and Professional Studies.

Ed Ayers is a highly decorated scholar and visionary university leader, and is also known to so many as a wonderful teacher who has inspired generations of students and countless radio listeners with his engaging perspective on American history.

Longwood President W. Taylor Reveley IV.

“We look forward to welcoming two accomplished citizen leaders – and celebrated leaders in higher education – to share words of wisdom at Longwood’s 2017 Commencement,” said Longwood President W. Taylor Reveley IV. “Ed Ayers is a highly decorated scholar and visionary university leader, and is also known to so many as a wonderful teacher who has inspired generations of students and countless radio listeners with his engaging perspective on American history.” Ayers is co-host of the nationally syndicated public radio program and popular podcast BackStory with the American History Guys.

 “Gil Bland is a great leader in the Commonwealth,” Reveley said. “Through his work and service to higher education through SCHEV and numerous educational institutions around the state, as well as with humanitarian and business organizations, Gil is the epitome of a citizen leader.”

As the president of the University of Richmond, Ayers led that institution’s continued ascent to national prominence, overseeing a strategic plan with remarkable impact in areas as diverse as the curriculum, facilities and student life.

Ayers vaulted to the national stage in 1992 when as a history professor at the University of Virginia he published The Promise of the New South: Life After Reconstruction, a historical account of life in the South between Reconstruction and the end of the 19th century, a finalist for the National Book Award for Nonfiction and for the Pulitzer Prize for History. His 2004 book In the Presence of Mine Enemies: War in the Heart of America, 1859-1863 was awarded the Bancroft Prize, among the most prestigious awards in the field of American history. At U.Va., where he served as Dean of Arts and Sciences, he was named the National Professor of the Year by the Carnegie Foundation.

Through his work and service to higher education through SCHEV and numerous educational institutions around the state, as well as with humanitarian and business organizations, Gil Bland is the epitome of a citizen leader.

Longwood President W. Taylor Reveley IV.

Bland is an entrepreneur and chairman of the GilJoy Group, and for nearly 30 years has been a franchisee of Burger King and Pizza Hut, owning and operating more than 70 restaurants throughout the Mid-Atlantic. He has been named one of the 50 most influential Virginians by Virginia Business Magazine, and has received the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Leaders Award from the Urban League of Hampton Roads, the Humanitarian Award from the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities, and the Old Dominion University Award for Service for his commitment to the Hampton Roads community and the Commonwealth.

He is a strong advocate for higher education, having served as chair of the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, and as a longtime member of its executive committee, as well as serving on numerous college and educational boards throughout Virginia. SCHEV is the Commonwealth’s coordinating body for higher education, making public policy recommendations to the Governor and General Assembly and serving as a catalyst to promote greater access, quality, affordability and accountability in Virginia higher education.

The 2017 Longwood graduate commencement ceremony will take place on Friday, May 19 at 5:30 p.m. in Jarman Auditorium.

The 2017 Longwood undergraduate commencement ceremony will take place on Saturday, May 20 at 9:30 a.m. on Wheeler Mall.

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