Old Dominion Welcomes a New President

On Feb. 12, Brian Hemphill, Ph.D., was announced as Old Dominion University’s newest president, making him the ninth person to hold the title. Additionally, he is ODU’s first Black president. Hemphill will take office this upcoming August, right on time for the Fall semester. 

As of now, Hemphill serves as the seventh president of Radford University, where he was elected back in July of 2016. Throughout the course of his presidency, Hemphill has taken strides as a member of the Radford community by serving on a number of committees, commissions and boards as well as by merging programs, securing funding for big projects, increasing the student body and more. According to Radford’s website, Hemphill “is an unwavering champion for positive change and a true advocate of shared governance… [committed] to excellence, accountability, transparency and student-centeredness.” 

Before his time at Radford, Hemphill was the 10th president of West Virginia State University from July 2012 to June 2016. During his time at WVSU, Hemphill created positive change by working with and for their athletics program and securing millions in funding. Before then, Hemphill served as Associate Vice Chancellor and Dean of Students at the University of Arkansas–Fayetteville, as well as Vice President for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management and Associate Professor at Northern Illinois University.

Hemphill was educated at St. Augustine’s University in 1992, Iowa State University in 1994 and the University of Iowa in 1998. Over the course of his studies, he received a B.A. in Organizational Communication, an M.S. in Journalism and Mass Communication and a Ph.D. in Higher Education Administration and Policy Studies. It is also important to note that Hemphill has co-written books on topics such as gun violence and campus safety. 

As for his personal life, Hemphill was gracious enough to answer a handful of questions, and here’s what he had to say:


Where are you from? 

I was born in Washington, DC, but I grew up in eastern North Carolina in a small town called Spring Hope. My mother was a seamstress, and my father was a brick mason. As the youngest child in a large family with eight siblings, I was the first to attend college, which gave me a gift.  Receiving the gift of education and opportunity, following a great deal of determination and hard work, has changed my life. Each and every day, I am honored to dedicate myself and my work to providing that same gift to current and future students!


How do you like to spend your free time?

I enjoy spending time with my lovely wife, Dr. Marisela Rosas Hemphill, and our eight-year-old twins, Cruz and Catalina. We truly enjoy traveling as a family and experiencing new adventures together!


Do you have any guilty pleasure and/or comfort foods?

I love seafood!


Who are your favorite music artists? 

I enjoy listening to jazz and R&B. Also, there are many artists from 80s and 90s hip-hop that I truly enjoy!


What's something that not many people know about you?

I do not need a lot of sleep! My daily routine includes waking up at 4:00 AM and getting in my workout. It is the best way to start my day and keeps me energized!


What excites you the most about being ODU's next president?

I cannot wait to meet the students, faculty, staff, alumni, and supporters that make ODU such a special place. I look forward to hearing their stories of the past and dreams for the future. ODU’s impact on the region is significant and creates opportunities for individuals, families, and communities. My family and I look forward to being part of this important work!

ODU is an institution with a great history of serving a population that speaks to me as a first-generation college student, as well as the level of diversity. ODU is truly on the cusp of taking the next step as a research university. When I look at the institution, it is clear that the Monarch nation is prepared to move to national and international prominence. Becoming ODU’s 9th President is exciting to me both personally and professionally!

I am ready to tell the ODU story and grow awareness of our great work. From my perspective, ODU has amazing components from online to research to corporate partnerships. All are strong, but all can grow. I am excited to provide leadership for that growth and create new opportunities for our students, our institution, and our future!


How do you hope to inspire students and staff at ODU? Do you have any words of wisdom?

My leadership and management style embodies three fundamental concepts, which are trust, respect, and fairness. I also work hard to build a culture and sense of family. We are truly in this together as it is not about one individual, but about the collective. At ODU, I know we will accomplish great things by working together. In doing so, we will inspire each other!

My words of wisdom are simple: Do not allow anyone to define you and/or your abilities. Use any doubt from others as motivation to work harder. And, always remember, there may be someone who is more talented in a given area, but never allow them to outwork you!