In the News: Virginia Aquarium, ODU and More

by Leona Baker

Annual State of the Region Report Exams Pandemic, Higher Ed, Casinos and More

Old Dominion University’s Dragas Center for Economic Policy released its 22nd annual State of the Region Report in October, tackling seven key topics relevant to our region’s economic health and cultural vitality. For two decades, the State of the Region Report has been produced as a service to decision-makers and thought leaders. Not surprisingly, tops on the list this year was COVID-19, its lingering effects and the prescription for recovery. Other areas of exploration included the state of the tourism industry, the Apprentice School at Newport News Shipyard, the future of sports betting and casinos, the role of higher education institutions in our community, the decline of local journalism, and the cash bail business in Coastal Virginia.

Virginia Aquarium Shares Events and Fundraising News as Renovations Continue

Like many local museums and nonprofit organizations, the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center in Virginia Beach has gradually been returning to programming—with the welcome presence of tourists over the summer and special after-hours events like its Fins & Frights, Holi-Rays and FantaSea, made possible by a $25,000 gift from East Coast Appliance. Also recently announced: Its annual Night at the Aquarium Auction raised a record $143,000 for animal care and conservation, and its partnership with the PRA Group has resulted in $250,000 worth of funding for student programs and the new jellyfish exhibit that will be a part of the new upgraded South Building, expected to open in spring of 2022.

Norfolk Hoping to Cruise Back into the Cruise Industry in a Big Way in 2022

The last place many people would have wanted to be during the height of the pandemic was on a ship with a few thousand strangers in close quarters. But times have changed, and pent-up travel demand means many cruise lovers are once again ready get onboard. And Norfolk wants to be ready. “Our program continues to grow exponentially,” Nauticus Executive Director Stephen Kirkland said recently. “In 2022, we’ll roll out the red carpet for 180,000 passengers, making it one of our very busiest seasons ever.” Nauticus welcomed its first foreign-flagged cruise vessel since the pandemic started, the 341-foot Ocean Explorer, and celebrated the arrival of its new passenger gangway system, will accommodate larger, more modern cruise ships, including the Carnival Magic, scheduled to set sail from Norfolk in 2022.

A Changing of the Higher Educational Guard at Local Colleges and Universities

At a time when colleges and college students face unprecedented challenges cultivating productive learning environments and positive career outcomes, several regional institutions are undergoing leadership changes from the top. Brian Hemphill, former president of Radford University, was selected as ODU’s ninth president and took over from the university’s longest serving president, John Broderick, this summer. Hemphill is ODU’s first African-American president. CNU President Paul Trible—credited with a significant expansion of the institution during his 26-year tenure—recently announced he plans to retire as president in August 2022. Also retiring this year will be Hampton University President William Harvey, whose 43 years at the helm of the HBCU places him among the longest serving presidents of a college or university in the U.S.

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