Dragas' digs: Rector's new farm suggests plan to stick around

Even if Helen Dragas doesn't remain UVA rector into a second term, she'll have a place fit for a billionaire to entertain friends and colleagues near Charlottesville. Sources indicate– and her own email confirms– that the Rector, a Virginia Beach resident, is already occupying a scenic Southern Albemarle farm that she plans to purchase called "Featheridge," the last home of late media tycoon John Kluge.

On the morning of Friday, June 8, the day that she and then Vice-Rector Mark Kington dropped the axe on the university's first female president, Teresa Sullivan, Dragas asked Kington to join her at a next-day meeting with University provost John Simon and vice president Michael Strine, most likely, she says, "at Featheridge."

"Let me know if you want my guest cottage," she tells Kington in an email released through a Freedom of Information Act request.

Featuring nearly 6,000 square feet of living space and nestled on 55 acres overlooking the Hardware River, the historic Featheridge estate in southern Albemarle is a glorious piece of real estate. With rolling fields and mountain views, it is located just off U.S. 20 on Secretary's Road, about half-way between Charlottesville and Scottsville.

There, Kluge and his wife, Maria "Tussi" Kuttner, would frequently host programs for UVA's Mindfulness Center as well as T'ai Chi charity events. After Kluge's death in 2010, Kuttner remained in the historic dwelling that one Featheridge visitor describes as "exquisitely tasteful."

"It's not ostentatious," a visitor says of the structure, built in 1800. The guest describes a "perfect kitchen– not too huge but beautifully equipped." Photos on the wall reportedly showed business titan Kluge in the company of celebrities.

Realtors indicate that the property has not been formally placed into the MLS, the Multiple Listing Service; and County records show that it has not changed hands since Kluge bought it in 1994. A friend says Kuttner revealed the rector's decision to acquire Featheridge within the last two months. Kuttner was traveling in Europe and did not return a reporter's calls for comment.

Previously, as her Albemarle County retreat, Dragas has taken residence as a renter at Southern Cross Farm, according to sources familiar with that property located in the Keswick area. While Dragas and her husband primarily reside in a 6,500 square-foot waterfront home in Virginia Beach, she revealed in a recent interview with a Darden School publication that she and her family enjoy rural getaways in Albemarle County– where she and her husband reportedly instruct their three children to turn off their electronics.

Tussi Kuttner has told acquaintances that Dragas' planned purchase of Featheridge, currently assessed for $1.6 million, will include furniture and furnishings, say sources familiar with those conversations. The sources portray Dragas' purchase of what are described as "eclectic" furnishings as evidence of the Rector's willingness to elevate decision-making over personal preferences.

"She's been galloping toward this one," says one source.

Any haste in acquiring the property, says UVA-based psychiatrist Andy Thomson, could be evidence that Dragas never expected the scathing fall-out– including widespread calls for her resignation– from the Sullivan firing.

Dragas' own family members praise her dedication to UVA and attest to her tenacity in published accounts– a "fighting spirit," as her mother described it to the Washington Post. And right after the announcement that three opposing members of the Board of Visitors set a June 26 meeting to consider reappointing Sullivan as president, Dragas sent out a 10-point appraisal of the "stiff headwinds" facing UVA. Such statements suggest that Dragas, whose current Board term expires at the end of the month, has no plans to leave when she could spend another four years helping guide the University into a new online era that she and some fellow Board members may consider the last best chance for UVA.

Dragas did not return a phone call for comment.

But with requests for her resignation still coming, with pressure on the governor not to reappoint her, and with signatures from 10 of 11 of UVA's deans urging the undoing of her action, Dragas may not need Featheridge as a work retreat for much longer.

But it's still a lovely place for a getaway.

This story is a part of the The ousting of a president special.


I'm so happy for Helen. Enough Virginia Beach condo development.....

Sounds like she intends (or intended) to install herself as a shadow President and run the U. from the oval room of the Rotunda. What arrogance!!

Egads! "turn off their electronics"? How ever will her children be able to access free online classrooms?!

"Sounds like... shadow president...." How about the fact that she loves the area like the rest of us? Or went to UVA and wants to be close to family and friends? How about the history of the area? How about any number of reasons besides the ones you can up with, inspector gadget? (What arrogance!!" yourself!)

You draw conclusions based on an article in the hook faster than Terry Sullivan stepped down without an immediate refusal to resign.

Which brings me to my final point: How can anyone criticize Dean Z for accepting the interim job too quickly? Terry shouldn't have resigned if she felt so strongly about her position as the best president of uva. With only 3 BoV members in her presence, she accepted defeat? Doesn't sound like a fighter/progressive mentality to me.... just sayin'.

If she ever tries to develop property in Albemarle, I hope it would sit permanently vacant.

I don't need her address, as I'll send her an online Christmas card this year.

She'd better invest in some razor wire. The natives are restless.

I think it is all about money. Having hedge fund managers as donors sounds great, but these people can be one bad stock market day away from being in the soup lines. If someone has an obscure educational software company that is tanking there are two ways to save it: have UVa make a major buy-in of the company's products, or pressure the endowment fund managers to buy several hundred thousand shares of the stock. I'm guessing the move was to buy the services. But quickly before the company tanked and took the venture capital part of the hedge fund with it.

Guys please don't compromise your integrity with out-of-scope character assassination activies and phrenology. I sincerely want Ms. Dragas to go on her own or be removed from BOV participation, but her choice and price range of residence is not an indictment of her BOV leadership (there's a surfeit of that material in more pertinent areas).

Just which "obscure educational software company" are we talking about here Geaorge? We'd like to check this out.

@UnderHoo: Valiant--albeit failed--attempt to salvage Ms. Dragas.

I agree that Dragas expects to stay. After events in the past week I had hoped that the voices of the UVa community would win the day. The American Council of Trustees and Alumni have been playing an increased role in higher education in Virginia over the past year. In several OP/ED pieces their President, Anne Neal, has supported the UVa board and kept contact with them.

Much of the"urgency" talk we are hearing appears to be a response to the ACTA May 2012 pamphlet on the role of governors:


and boards for university reform:


Reading this last pamphlet might give an idea of coming events. I hope that the UVa community is up to the challenge of bringing these ideas and the groups behind them to light and defeating them through open debate.

^^ I agree with Jeff. The Hook is a go-to place for up to the minute information, but then they dilute their legitimacy when they slide into the snarky stuff. When some members of the UVa community lap that up, they demean themselves, and to some extent they also demean the University.

Follow Terry's lead here -- be classy. Jeesh!

@UnderHoo: "Terry shouldn't have resigned if she felt so strongly about her position as the best president of uva. With only 3 BoV members in her presence, she accepted defeat? Doesn't sound like a fighter/progressive mentality to me.... just sayin'."

You've drawn some mighty fast conclusions yourself there, cheese-dip. Presumably Sullivan took Dragas/Kington at their word when they said they had the votes. She also probably wanted to avoid an ugly board fight. I also imagine that she was promised a better severance package if she kept quiet.... just sayin'.

She has a husband? Egads, he'll end up like the Coca-Cola bigshot in "Mommy Dearest."

R.I.P.: Peter Zezel

What kind of breakfast cereal does she like ? Are her cats named after people ? Has she ever worn a hat indoors ?

Dragas Vineyards?

@Da Troof June 22nd, 2012 | 3:54pm
“cheese-dip”? ROFL!!!!!!

FINALLY, I don’t have to look up a word/phrase to understand it’s meaning!

"last best chance for UVA?" Heck, all colleges and universities are falling on less affluent times, but Dragas' "the sky is falling" approach just isn't realistic! It's reactionary, misinformed, and out of touch with the real needs of a brick-and-mortar institution.

Should the University of Phoenix be building giant campuses? Of course not.
Should UVA be diving headlong into lots of online class offerings? Of course not.

Just because the business model is working for one group doesn't mean that everyone should play. Indeed, dividing the online education pie up into smaller slices will just leave everyone hungry. UVA should stick with what it's good at - a real education at a real institution. Let the online diploma mills do their own thing, and let the reactionary fools at Harvard to chase after them.

Carboro Pete,

Goldman Sachs was depicted as having an interest in an educational software company and looking to expand. I know for a fact that Goldman bought Hawker Beechcraft A few years go from Textron and ran it right into Chapter 11 bankruptcy within the last month. Hawker Beechcraft makes corporate and military airplanes.

Not saying it was GS or any other specific hedge fund manager but someone is looking to "monitize" the UVa "brand" quickly and I don't think it stops (or began) with Ms. Dragas.

How do I apply to get a fishing permit to go on her land?

When some tea party put Perriello's house on the internet and posted "go thank him" and a gas line was found loose at his brother's house. So I wouldn't have put the address out there, since some a** spray painted the Rotunda Columns. (I don't think someone went to P's brother's house and pulled a gas line and ran away, the extra scrutiny of the family looking around probably spotted a problem that they caused). I wonder what Kluge would think of big donor's thinking they should have a hand in ousting a UVa President. He prob. wouldn't like it any more than Carl Smith's widow.

BHP above noted the guidance brochures for university boards and governors released in May by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA). ACTA also did a study of Virginia colleges and universities that was published in January:


This appears to be mostly high level student and financial summary statistics compared with cutoffs established by ACTA, followed by value judgements of the result (i.e., no significant analysis).

Also note that the top item on ACTA's Web site (http://www.goacta.org/) is an open letter supportive of the BOV.

T.S. was likely made a sweet financial deal the day she agreed to leave without a whimper. If re-instated she would be in a new ballgame for compensation . Clearly she would be entitled to retain her sweet deal .On top of the sweet deal she could negotiate an improved remuneration plus improved benefits and longer contract . What if the decision to force her out was found to be the right move while generous donors went elsewhere with their cash ? She was deemed as a poor fund raiser .By re-instatement ; the Sullivan expermint could end up in a donor strike . Democracy and group activism can produce poor results. The herd is often wrong !

Check this out: http://www.docstoc.com/docs/document-preview.aspx?doc_id=13137667 . She should really spend more time in this class: Organizational Behavior.

I am not a member of a "herd" nor am I part of the "sheeple." Funny, if the "herd" is often wrong, then the "market," which after all is the sum of all transactions in regard to a particular matter, would also be often wrong. But the right wing keeps saying the market is always right. If big donors aren't going to give just because they don't like Ms. Sullivan, then they really aren't devoted to the University anyway, it seems to me. BTW, her "deal" to leave seems to be nothing more than what she would have gotten if she had been fired directly instead of indirectly. The amended contract is on line, I believe at the CD site.

George: I think you're onto something. Try Goldman Sachs Education Management LLC http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/14/goldman-sachs-for-profit-colleg... Some fat cat Darden alums saw a profit to be made and Dragas was probably promised a taste for clearing the boards for a a new President who could be more easily manipulated...

yes this seems part of the picture on the business profiteering side. (conflict of interest here?). Say a fat contract with Goldman Sachs education people. (kickbacks anywhere?)

On some earlier threads democracy got into this topic which was helpful.

Check out the board of StudentsFirst which includes Kiernan and Jones. The org is run by the controversial Michelle Rhee. This gets one into the political side.

For the American Council of Trustees, note that it was founded by Lynne Cheney, VP Cheney's wife, back in the mid 1990s.Here's wiki (I know):

Then note that "education reform" players include the American Enterprise Institute which is politically "Neoconservative" and Hoover Institution which is of a similar ilk.

So there are the big picture national politics involved here as well as certain financial interests. The financial interests themselves are intertwined with the education reform network.

Culture wars from Wall Street, the Neoconservatives, etal.. I'll stick with Mr. Jefferson...

Underhoo: "With only 3 BoV members in her presence, she accepted defeat? Doesn't sound like a fighter/progressive mentality to me.... just sayin'."

She didn't "accept defeat," she took someone at their word. That's what honorable people do.

Given that the Rector's PR apparatus got the "Board was unanimous" line out first and we found out that was untrue, it's possible that Sullivan was misled (that is, lied to). Being a "fighter" knowing that the Board was unanimous is about as silly as anything.

Featheridge is a much too delicate a name. How about Sledgehammercliff.

Hold the phone here - the property is still owned by Kluge's widow as the Featheridge Trust so I don't know how the "guest house" his Dragas'?

Louise you are good!

why would you want to live in the town you thought was asleep ,,you are wrong we are very much awake and on top of things ....no-one likes you here why would you want to live here ? you can take your drangon ass out of here
we dont like snob rich we like southern charm ,we are kind ,honest people we do not like snobby rich dragases
go back to va.beach

I know it is bad form and bad manners to comment upon one's personal appearance. However, maybe this remark will not be too out of line. For some time now I have been mildly intrigued Ms. Dragas' appearance in the various photographs of her that have appeared lately, especially in the Wash. Post. Something was bothering and nagging me though. Just who did she remind me of (yeah I know bad grammar to end sentence with prep. why with all the english majors around here). Finally it hit me - Al Pacino. This revelation was a relief just like when you can't remember a name and all of a sudden it comes to you. Who knows maybe there is grist here for a major motion picture. It was just something on my feeble mind.

i cannot imagine featheridge becoming draconian's, i mean dragas' home. if forces are in play, it will not happen. it's mindful retreats are testament to a beautiful property being put to a use that reflects the property. to think of it being home to spoiled rich kids............ i am getting sick.

Hope she didn't put up earnest money. Next week someone's going to throw a bucket of water on her, and our heroine will be back here in Kansas. It will all seem like a bad dream.

Service, humility, co-operation, maturity, forgiveness, candor, remorse, vision, magnanimity,unity, leadership, courage and success. Oh, and honor. Helen, you can have it all, or you can lose it.

I suggest some serious soul-searching here. Some really serious, heart-felt commitment.

We need President Sullivan to return, but maybe we all need someone like Helen Dragas too.

Her purchase of Featheridge could have alternative explanations than a desire to remain as Rector on the Board of Visitors. It could also mean a payday, such as a lucrative corporate board seat, after doing the bidding of others and falling on her sword in the failed overthrow of President Sullivan.

JRP, I have been waiting for someone to suggest this!

You have to assume that either Kington/Kiernan/Jones dreamed this up and recruited Dragas, or that Dragas dreamed it up and recruited K/K/J. The latter trio can all buy and sell Dragas with pocket change and they have connections with other large donors in capital markets. She does not. So, who do you think recruited who?.

I am trying to picture the call ---- "Tudor, this is Helen Dragas. I am a VA Beach real estate developer and I want to overthrow the University. Can I count on your support?"

BTW, folks. get over the Goldman Sachs conspiracy theory. Trust me, if converting the University to online learning is the path to success for them, it is way too late.

Finally. only a very, very few of the big contributors to UVA have ever tried to exercise undue influence bit that group provides the money required to keep it running.

Do the math. If 100,000 alumni gave $25 per month every month, it would provide about 10% of the money that is currently raised and spent. You can't do it without the big donors. (how many people complaining about the big money have given $300 in the past year??

This farm is U Va property, given to U Va by Kluge as a donation, parcels of which U Va has sold off to the likes of Dave Matthews band members. At market prices. And now Dragas the U Va Rector is arranging for herself a sweetheart underhanded deal on exclusive U Va property never listed for sale, never put out to public bidding?! This is called graft. It is corrupt. A lawyer who engaged in self dealing like that would be instantly disbarred. Why is nobody researching the question of criminal charges?

I think you're mixing up Morven/contingent properties that John Kluge donated to UVA, or his estate did.

Thanks for another great article. No such on the "mediageneral" papers beholden to Dominion Power (old VEPCO) , orgins back to Jay Gould, and other big business. Ms Dragas , of whom few , if any, in my area of Virginia, were aware , seems much taken with her come lately elevation and social status. Too much so for many's comfort zones...

The Feathers (or similar) name for a farm seemed familiar. Wm Stevens 1962? Va. House Tour book has a farm in Southern Va near Redlands called "Feathers" (pg 77-78) on Secretary Road (so same road). This was not land Kluge gave to UVa (Morven and Washington farm) . It could be (put I don't know) that Featherridge was part of the farm" Feathers" @ 1960s

I am so disheartened by the ignorance of most of you who don't know those people, don't know their motives and are assuming that all people who have money, even if they worked for every dime, are spoiled. You know NOTHING. I wish you could feel some shame in your collective lack of filters of common decency, your streams of diarrhea of the mouth. I don't even have a dog in this fight but am sorry to be a member of the human race in Cville at this moment.

According to the "Chronicle of Higher Education" (6/25/2012), the Southern Association of Colleges & Schools Commission on Colleges may have a 'Special Committee' look into what really happened. They will get to the facts.