Presidents’ Day Message from Acting President Denna
Today, Acting President Eric Denna issued the following letter:
I can’t believe how quickly this year has gone. It doesn’t seem too long ago that we were celebrating Christmas and looking forward to a new year. Now, we’re just a few weeks away from spring in Virginia—a season I look forward to experiencing in person with each of you.
As a board member, I’ve come to know and appreciate the unique mission and purpose of Southern Virginia University. Yet, in the past month serving as acting president, the warmth and hospitality Lyn and I have received from students, faculty, and staff has been overwhelming. Thank you for welcoming us into the Southern Virginia University community.
With Presidents’ Day upon us, I’m reminded how blessed we are to live, work and study in this special place at the heart of the Shenandoah Valley. Rich with American history, Virginia is the birthplace of eight U.S. presidents, and home to many of the most important events in the founding, defending, and preserving of our great nation. As we celebrate this holiday, please take time to express gratitude for the innumerable sacrifices made on our behalf—sacrifices that have resulted in the essential freedoms we enjoy today.
One of my favorite presidential places to visit in the Washington D.C. area is the Capitol Building in Annapolis, MD. In that building, George Washington resigned his commission as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army. The scene was captured by John Trumbull in the following painting.
In describing the painting, the Architect of the Capitol, wrote:
Washington, illuminated by the light falling into the room, stands in uniform before the president of the Continental Congress, Thomas Mifflin, and the delegates, among whom is Thomas Jefferson. Behind Washington are his aides-de-camp, Col. Benjamin Walker and Col. David Humphreys, and spectators. The delegates and spectators direct their attention to Washington as he extends his right hand to return his commission. The empty chair draped in a cloak, suggestive of a throne covered with a king’s robe, symbolizes Washington’s act of retiring from his position of power.
You can read more at the Architect of the Capital.
We are the beneficiaries of Washington’s selflessness. Many consider the resigning of his military commission as the real birth of our democracy. Most military commanders then, and even today, retain their military commission and establish a military-led government, or outright kingdom. No wonder that the nation, just over five years later, elected Washington to be our first President of The United States of America.
Fortunately, we have had many like Washington serve our country and it is appropriate we celebrate this holiday weekend for their contribution to our nation.
I’m so grateful for the opportunity to serve at this great institution of selfless people who step up and step down as needed. There are so many exciting things happening at Southern Virginia University and I’m thrilled to be here for a period of time to experience our bright future with all of you.
Thank you for everything you do. Have a safe and enjoyable holiday.
Eric Denna, Ph.D.