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Three new members appointed to NSU board

Jordan Crawford | 11/14/2013, 9:46 a.m.
Deborah DiCroce, former president of Tidewater Community College, and two others appointed to Norfolk State University's governing board.

— Good things come in threes so Norfolk State University’s (NSU) saga of leadership, financial, and student body woes may actually be over.

Gov. Bob McDonnell on Thursday appointed three new members to the school’s governing board, along with two special advisers who he said would help NSU overcome its challenges.

Among the appointees is the former president of Tidewater Community College (TCC), Deborah DiCroce, who helped turn that school into a model institution.

“To me this says that the governor is not messing around,” said Del. Lionell Spruill Sr., a Chesapeake Democrat and NSU alumnus. “This brings a lot of credibility to that board.”

DiCroce spent 14 years at TCC and is credited with a major expansion there, not just in its student population but also in its physical footprint, financial resources, academic programs and its role in Hampton Roads.

Before TCC, she was president of Piedmont Community College in Charlottesville for nine years.

The appointments are the latest move by the state to try to turn around the struggling university. With about 6,700 students, NSU has the worst graduation rate among Virginia’s four-year public colleges. Earlier this year, its two-year nursing program was barred from accepting students because too few have passed a national licensing exam upon graduation. And the university is under review by its regional accrediting agency for a host of additional problems, including failure to finish financial audits on time.

In August, NSU’s board voted to fire the university’s then-president, Tony Atwater, saying he had not done enough to address the school’s problems. In September, the board hired Eddie Moore Jr., who helped revive a struggling Virginia State University in the 1990s.

Besides DiCroce, who left TCC in 2012 to head the Hampton Roads Community Foundation, the new board members are Michael D. Rochelle of Manassas, a retired Army lieutenant general who heads a consulting and executive coaching firm; and Bryan Cuffee of Virginia Beach, vice president of Gold Key/PHR Hotels and Resorts. Both are NSU alumni.

They replace Julien Patterson, who resigned for personal reasons in October; W. Wayne Perry Jr., who was charged with federal health care fraud just last week; and Henry Light, who left in September after he and at least one other board member were asked by the governor’s office to step aside.

Former rector Ed Hamm Jr. also was asked to go but remains on the board.

In a brief interview, DiCroce, who lives in Chesapeake, said she was “delighted” about joining the board.

“I’ve had a long respect for NSU” and its “distinctive, critical place in our higher-education landscape,” she said.

The two advisers named Thursday are former Virginia Secretary of Education Jim Dyke and Ervin Jordan, an NSU alumnus and professor at the University of Virginia. McDonnell said in a news release that they would help the board and NSU administrators with “strategic implementation,” academic improvements and getting through the investigation by the school’s accrediting body.

“I have no doubt the university can overcome its current challenges and become a leader again in placing graduates in competitive, in-demand careers,” McDonnell said.