Dean Turner announces retirement

UVA has announced that dean of African American Affairs, M. Rick Turner has announced a hasty retirement after 30 years in education, effective July 31, 2006.

On July 17, local media reported that Turner had been placed on administrative leave after pleading guilty to lying to federal prosecutors about “the activities of a known drug dealer.” In the plea agreement, Turner agreed to 12 months of federal probation and to cooperate with further investigations. On July 20, it was reported that Associate Dean of African American Affairs, Sylvia Terry would temporarily replace Turner until the federal investigation was complete.

Although UVA officials have been mum about the details surrounding Turner’s sudden retirement and the federal drug case he appears to be involved in, Turner himself was anything but. The outspoken president of the NAACP’s local chapter is well known for his fiery criticism of race-relations in Charlottesville.

“She’s being dragged through the mud because she’s black and female,” Turner said during a 2005 speech at the Rotunda, referring to Charlottesville school superintendent Scottie Griffin, who was under heavy criticism at the time. “I don’t think white people in Charlottesville will do anything for black folks,” Turner went on. At a school board meeting several months before, similar comments elicited hisses and boos among the largely white audience as Turner and other black leaders attempted to defend Griffin.

At UVA, Turner was seen as a smashing success in part because UVA leads the nation’s public universities with its 86 percent graduation rate for blacks, according to the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education. In a recent New York Times article, 19-year old undergrad Courtney White credits the university’s peer adviser program organized by Turner's Office of African-American Affairs
Turner said in a statement that he will “continue to be active in the community and looks forward to having more time to devote to completing a book he has been writing for several years.” UVA will appoint an interim dean while they conduct a search for a new one, leaving Dean Terry in charge for now.

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(photo: Rebecca Arrington/U.Va. News Services)