Michael Rao, President of Virginia Commonwealth University, Elected ACE Board Chair
December 07, 2021

​​Michael Rao, president of Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), has been elected chair of the ACE Board of Directors.

Michael Rao, president of Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) headshot

Michael Rao, president of Virginia Commonwealth University

Rao was selected today during ACE's business meeting conducted via a webinar with ACE members, and his term will begin in March 2022, after ACE2022, ACE's Annual Meeting, March 5-7, in San Diego. He succeeds Ronald A. Crutcher, president emeritus of the University of Richmond, and will serve for one year. Rao currently serves as vice chair.

ACE's membership also elected Linda A. Livingstone, president of Baylor University, vice-chair.

“In these turbulent and challenging times, ACE's work to convene, organize, mobilize, and lead advocacy efforts that shape effective public policy and help colleges and universities best serve their students, their communities, and the wider public good has never been more important," said ACE President Ted Mitchell. “I deeply appreciate Michael's and Linda's commitment, leadership, and willingness to serve, along with the entire ACE Board of Directors, and I want to express my utmost gratitude to Ron for all he has done over the past year for ACE and the entire higher education community."

Rao became the fifth president of VCU and the VCU Health System in 2009, and is the first Asian-American president in the university's history. He has continued to cement VCU's place among the nation's premier urban, public research universities, piloting strategic efforts focused on academic quality, student success and research that foster regional economic development and improve lives.

Rao leads a university with an academic health system whose flagship hospital, VCU Medical Center, is ranked among the top 100 hospitals in the nation. VCU educates more than 29,000 students from 101 countries in more than 220 degree and certificate programs. As the largest employer in the Richmond area and among the largest in the commonwealth, VCU has an economic impact on Virginia of $9.5 billion. Additionally, VCUarts Qatar—located in Doha's Education City—is internationally recognized for excellence in art and design.

“Our mission at VCU is to serve students, patients, and our communities in ways that bolster access to a high-quality education and demonstrate there is a pathway to success for every individual," Rao said. “I am delighted to have the privilege to serve in this role for ACE, an organization whose own mission aligns so well with these same goals, and am honored to follow the leadership and inspiration exemplified every day by Ron Crutcher."

Livingstone is the 15th president of Baylor University. She has overseen the development of Baylor's academic strategic plan, Illuminate, which details Baylor's pursuit of becoming a preeminent Christian research university, and the $1.1 billion comprehensive campaign that undergirds Illuminate, called Give Light. A former collegiate student-athlete and a strong voice for the role of faith-based institutions in American higher education, she has established herself as a scholar in organizational behavior, leadership, creativity, and university accreditation.

Also elected  and designated to the ACE Board of Directors during today's ACE business meeting were:

Elected Members

Term Ending March 2025

  • Neeli Bendapudi, President, University of Louisville
  • Joan T.A. Gabel, President, University of Minnesota
  • Carrie Besnette Hauser, President, Colorado Mountain College
  • Paul J. LeBlanc, President, Southern New Hampshire University
  • Linda A. Livingstone, President, Baylor University (TX)
  • Karen Schuster Webb, President, Union Institute & University (OH)
  • Tom Stritikus, President, Fort Lewis College (CO)
  • Scott Pulsipher, President, Western Governors University

Term Ending March 2024

  • Anne M. Kress, President, Northern Virginia Community College

Term Ending March 2023

  • Ana Mari Cauce, President, University of Washington

Designated Members

Term Ending March 2023

Designated Associations

  • American Association of State Colleges and Universities
    Charles L. Welch, President, Arkansas State University System
  • Shirley V. Hoogstra, President, Council for Christian Colleges & Universities
  • Kevin Kruger, President, NASPA: Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education

Washington Higher Education Secretariat Designated Representative

  • Andy Brantley, President and CEO, College and University Professional Association for Human Resources (CUPA-HR)​​

Media Contact
Jon Riskind
Telephone:(202) 939-9453