Thomas Taylor, Ed.D. '00
Crediting Virginia Wesleyan with helping him discover his love of learning, Thomas Taylor, Ed.D. (2000) has fittingly dedicated his professional life to public education. While at VWU, the Chevy Chase, Maryland native received a degree in social science with a minor in secondary education, balancing academics with his involvement in Habitat for Humanity, the Student Government Association and the Phi Alpha Theta fraternity. He received his master’s and doctorate from the University of Virginia (UVA), with a dissertation study on “Superintendent Levels of Desirability for Professional Development.” In 2008, he became the principal of Charlottesville High School and four years later, in 2012, received UVA’s Curry School of Education Award for Outstanding Alumni Principal. Taylor now lives in Saluda, Virginia, where he doubles as the Superintendent of Middlesex County Public Schools and as an adjunct professor of educational leadership at UVA. He enjoys reading, teaching and spending time with his wife Lee and their three daughters.
How did your time at Virginia Wesleyan University shape the person you are today?
Virginia Wesleyan taught me how to be a better learner and also helped to reshape my personality by instilling a set of values focused on service above self. I was inspired at Virginia Wesleyan to follow my passion of working with young people, which I have turned into a career in public education at various levels. Beyond the many leadership opportunities I had at the College, I had remarkable professors and a supportive network of staff and peers that helped me through my baccalaureate experience. In my personal and professional life, I try to emulate the virtue of caring for others because VWU did such a great job of caring for me. I am very grateful for my Virginia Wesleyan experience.
What are some of your favorite memories of professors, mentors or friends at VWU?
I remember dinners at Ben and Linda Berry’s house and the life-changing January Term (now known as Winter Session) trip that we took to the Deep South. We reenacted the Freedom Rides of the 1960s and sang “We Shall Overcome” while crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. I will also never forget taking final exams for the political science courses that Dr. Edmund “Del” Carlson taught. There were always six essay topics to prepare for and then selected students would roll dice in the front of the room to determine which two topics would be tested during the exam period. Intense preparation and a fair amount of probability statistics went into each exam. Beyond my academic studies, I thoroughly enjoyed serving my classmates as an SGA senator for two years and working with the college administration to host events. I loved giving tours of the campus to visitors, but not so much on Saturday mornings.
How do you describe the Virginia Wesleyan experience to friends and colleagues?
Working in education, I am often asked which colleges are best for students to attend. I tell folks about Virginia Wesleyan and explain that it is a caring place committed to student success. Success takes different forms for different people. VWU knows and understands that success begins with inspiration and learning. The Wesleyan educational approach is simple and effective: surround students in the arms of a caring institution to nurture development and inspire life-long learning.
Share your thoughts about one or more of the following: the value of a liberal arts education, the “small college difference,” unique opportunities you had at VWU (internships, community service, study abroad, etc.).
Though I have spent an equal number of credit hours in study at VWU and UVA, Virginia Wesleyan is where I learned how to learn. I credit my love of learning and my career to the many wise peers and mentor teachers who taught me how to study. I had terrific professors who inspired me to read great books that covered a wide range of academic disciplines. As a high school student who was not particularly strong in academics, VWU had a unique way of birthing my inner scholar. I feel that the liberal arts curriculum better prepared me to be a working professional and then also to be a graduate student later in life. I still draw many associations and ideas back to concepts that I learned at Virginia Wesleyan.
Anything else about your time at VWU you would like to share?
VWU is like a family in many ways. VWU knows and loves you when you are young, inexperienced, and ignorant to how the world works. It helps you to develop awareness in an environment that is warm, gentle, and supportive. Confident that she has trained her children well, Virginia Wesleyan guides you to the crossroads and trusts you to make good choices from that point on.