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Frank Batten, founder of Landmark Communications and an Old Dominion University supporter for nearly five decades, has given $32 million to the university, President Roseann Runte announced today. It is the largest gift in university history and one of the largest gifts ever to a Virginia public college or university.

"As the first rector of the Board of Visitors, I developed a strong commitment to Old Dominion University," Batten noted. "Over the past 48 years, I have seen Old Dominion make great strides in student achievement, teaching excellence, research endeavors and state-of-the-art facilities. I hope this gift will enable Old Dominion to reach the forefront of academic and research eminence, particularly in the fields of science and technology."

According to Runte, the gift will benefit all six of the university's academic colleges, with a particular emphasis on engineering and science. Seventy-five percent of the gift will be used to establish endowed faculty chairs and the remaining 25 percent will go to endowing research within the institution.

"I want to thank Frank and Jane Batten for their leadership, generosity and belief in education as an engine to better the region," Runte said. "This gift enables the university to carry forth its strategic plan and will help it achieve its goal of being in the top 100 universities in the nation. Frank is truly a rare and treasured friend of humanity."

The $32 million gift comes before the formal launch of a $100 million capital campaign for Old Dominion University. Prior to Batten's gift, a $10 million anonymous gift during the previous capital campaign stood as the largest in university history.

"We are extremely encouraged and energized by this gift," Runte added. "I feel confident that we will arrive at our goal with support from our alumni and the community."

Batten's long relationship with Old Dominion began in 1955 when he served as a member of the Advisory Board to the Norfolk Division of the College of William and Mary. Over the next few years, as the Norfolk Division campaigned to become an independent college, Batten served as a tireless advocate and promoter of the school. In 1962, he became the first rector of the Board of Visitors of the newly independent Old Dominion College. In June 1972, the university's Batten Arts and Letters Building was dedicated in his honor. Batten's son, Frank Jr., now serves as rector.

Batten's financial support to Old Dominion has earned him the distinction as the university's most significant and enduring contributor. His influence has extended beyond the generosity of his immediate family, including his wife, Jane, and three children. In 1995, Old Dominion initiated the Batten Award to recognize and encourage others who, like the Batten family, have demonstrated outstanding charitable support to the university and whose philanthropic leadership encourages others to support the university.

After receiving a bachelor's degree from the University of Virginia and an MBA from Harvard University, Batten began his professional career in the 1950s when he went to work for his uncle's two local newspapers, The Virginian-Pilot and the Ledger-Dispatch. Later he acquired a controlling interest in the newspapers. He built them into Landmark Communications Inc., a Norfolk-based, privately held media company with national and international interests in newspapers, broadcasting, cable programming and electronic publishing. In 1998, Batten passed control of Landmark to his son and currently serves as chairman of the board's Executive Committee.

This article was posted on: March 11, 2003

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