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Broderick's ready for the job, even if it's temporary

Courtesy: ODU Athletics
         
Release: July 10, 2008
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July 10, 2008

One of John R. Broderick's first phone calls after being named acting president of Old Dominion University was to Harry Murphy, a friendly rival coach in Chesapeake's recreational soccer league.

Broderick asked Murphy, a member of the city's School Board, to help set up a meeting with Chesapeake's mayor-to-be, Alan Krasnoff. Broderick wanted to get a jump on reinforcing those community contacts.

Broderick hadn't begun his new assignment yet - outgoing President Roseann Runte was still around - but there were things to do. ODU's mission wouldn't wait.

Broderick said he doesn't plan to bake first-day-of-school cookies for students - a Runte tradition. But people who know him say little else will fall off in the short term.

They credit Broderick's skills in dealing with people, his 15 years of experience at ODU, and the fact that his regular job - vice president for institutional advancement and Runte's chief of staff - has given him know-how and contacts in every corner of the campus, around the community and across the state.

"John is the face of that university," said Del. Kenneth Alexander, D-Norfolk, who has seen him at many civic events and prowling the Capitol hallways during legislative sessions. "John is there. Rain, snow, sleet or hail - John is there." Runte, ODU president since 2001, announced in January that she had taken the same job at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, starting Tuesday. She vacated her office two weeks ago. A search committee, of which Broderick is a member, has been privately evaluating candidates to replace her. The panel hopes to announce a choice by next month, although the transition could take much longer.

"I've told people I could be here 10 days; I could be here, you know, 10 months - I don't know," Broderick said recently. "I'm pleased I was asked. And I'm pretty comfortable I can handle the challenges until, you know, someone does formally arrive."

Broderick, 51, didn't apply for the job; no one on the search committee can be a candidate. A native of Bristol, Conn., he holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from Northeastern University in Boston and a master's in education from St. Bonaventure University in New York.

He reported on sports, local news and tourism for newspapers in Connecticut and Massachusetts. That led to tourism jobs for Martha's Vineyard and the Berkshires in western Massachusetts, then to public relations and marketing at St. Bonaventure. He taught public relations and journalism at the University of Pittsburgh before coming to ODU in 1993 as director of public relations.

Three years later, he was promoted to vice president in charge of admissions and financial aid, marketing and events, campus publications, and community, government and media relations. Runte named him chief of staff in 2003 to free up her time for more fundraising and planning.

In recent years, Broderick led a committee to find a provost, or No. 2 academic officer, and was co-chairman of a committee that selected the first coach for ODU's new football program.Weather and schedules permitting, he and the coach, Bobby Wilder, jog together at midday.

Wilder, who has met hundreds of people while selling the idea of ODU football, said Broderick showed him how to remember faces and names by asking people for business cards and jotting notes on them about how they met.

"That's one of a hundred things he's taught me about meeting people and building relationships," Wilder said. Broderick spoke recently in the stripped-down president's office in Koch Hall. Emphasizing the temporary nature of his appointment, he lugged just one box of essentials from his office downstairs, which is undergoing a previously planned renovation. His $212,000 salary won't change, nor will his parking space. Runte had left on her desk chair a white hard hat labeled "Acting President Broderick" and a handwritten note of good wishes.

The Board of Visitors gave Broderick no specific charge, other than to serve from Runte's departure until the new president is on board. He's already busy. In addition to his administrative duties, he's revamping a graduate education class on community relations, one he has taught for years, to put it on the Web. The biggest change has been the unbroken stream of visitors to his office door. It's l ike Halloween night at home, he said.

He won't need many introductions, said Dana Burnett, chairman of ODU's department of educational leadership and counseling. When he and Broderick attend Norfolk Tides baseball games, "there are always people who recognize John, who come up and chat for a while," Burnett said.

He'll celebrate his 30th wedding anniversary this year with Kate Broderick, who works in ODU's disability services office. Their three sons include the father of their first granddaughter, a close-to-finishing ODU student and an eighth-grader at St. Patrick Catholic School in Norfolk.

Runte said Broderick's skills aren't limited to the world of academia. When lost on their many road trips across Virginia to visit alumni and legislators, the two ODU leaders found that UPS drivers proved to be the best source for accurate directions.

"John was really good at spotting those brown trucks," Runte said.

story written by Matthew Bowers, The Virginian-Pilot, (757) 222-3893, matthew.bowers@pilotonline.com

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