Scott Beardsley Speaking at Lectern

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About - Dean - Speeches & Writing - Grand Opening of the Forum Hotel

The Forum Hotel Grand Opening

A Gathering Place Where Everyone Is Welcome

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to The Forum Hotel, here on the Grounds of the University of Virginia Darden School of Business!

I am Scott Beardsley, Darden’s Dean, and I thank you for being here. 

Today, we join with our partners, the Darden School Foundation and Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants, and its parent group, IHG, to welcome you to this new Charlottesville hotel on the beautiful Goodwin Family Grounds at Darden and to cut the ribbon in celebration!  

As you will learn today, The Forum Hotel is critical to Darden’s academic mission and learning experience, and it’s Kimpton’s first ever on-campus hotel. To put it simply: The property combines world-class education and world-class hospitality.

The Forum Hotel aims to be a gathering place where everyone is welcome.  

  • A gathering place for Darden students, faculty and staff based here in Charlottesville and at Darden’s campus in the Washington, D.C. metro area.  
  • A gathering place for alumni and recruiters, and Darden executive education learners from around the world for courses to move their careers and companies forward.  
  • And a gathering place for the University of Virginia and our community. 

This area of the University is called North Grounds, and today we welcome the entire North Grounds community. Just down the street are our North Grounds neighbors, the UVA School of Law and the Judge Advocate General’s School. Welcome! Some of UVA’s outstanding athletic and event facilities are just down the road, including the John Paul Jones Arena, and we welcome our Virginia Athletics neighbors. We also welcome those from the Miller Center for Public Affairs. We hope more Hoos from across Grounds will find their way to North Grounds. 

The property is also open to Charlottesville residents. Did I mention that Kimpton is dog friendly and that they have some great concerts lined up? We also welcome guests passing through this beautiful region of the Commonwealth of Virginia! 

It’s our hope that the property will live up to its name, as a forum where learning will take place, views and ideas will be exchanged, and connections will be made ─ in a setting that is a true expression of Virginia hospitality. It is my hope that it will create wonderful memories and make people happy. 

Today, you will get a sneak peek of the 198 guest rooms and extensive conference and event facilities ─ all surrounded by a five-acre arboretum and botanical gardens. We will celebrate the outdoor spaces later this year once the planting of 5,500 trees and shrubs concludes.  

The Forum Hotel was made possible by the Darden School Foundation – many of its board members are here with us. I would like to thank in particular Immediate Past Chair Bob Hugin, who got the project underway, and Chair Martina Hund-Mejean who then shepherded the project and its financing and so many other important details.  

The Forum Hotel was built thanks to the generosity of many donors, including principal donors such as the ALTEC/Styslinger family, George and Laurel Tahija, Dave and Kathy LaCross, and Dick and Barbara Crawford, all of whom pledged at least $5 million to the project.

I am particularly grateful to someone without whom this project could not have happened. That someone is Frank Sands Sr.  

In 2019, Frank Sands Sr., founder of Sands Capital in Arlington, Virginia, and a 1963 MBA graduate of the Darden School, made a $20 million lead gift to jumpstart the hotel’s construction. His vision, which he delivered less than two years before his death in 2021, was to further elevate Darden as a premier school for lifelong learning. Anchoring that promise was a facility on North Grounds that would bring together lifelong learners for the education experience for which UVA and Darden are world-renowned.

The Forum Hotel formally bears his name and that of his wife Marjorie R. Sands, who was an educator. There are many wonderful remembrances to them both throughout the property. Their son, Frank Sands, will share more in a few minutes. But let’s please pause to honor and thank the Sands Family. Please join me in giving them a round of applause! 

Following their example, donors raised over $70 million! We will celebrate many of them later this week and are so grateful!

We are also thankful to the many, many people who have worked tirelessly since we broke ground only 15 months ago. First, I would like to thank the Darden team that put its heart and soul into the project: Dean Krehmeyer, Ashley Williams, Julie Daum, Cindy Persinger, Marc Johnson, Carolyn Miles, Samantha Hartog and Heather Enos, and many others. Thank you to my wife Claire and my family who provided key support during Covid.

We at Darden are especially thankful to our partner organizations ─ architects Cooper Carry, designers Kimpton, Looney & Associates and Beleco Design, landscape architects Water Street, advisers the Carr and Meridien Group and Mike Matthews, W.M. Jordan construction company and our operating partner Kimpton. So many construction, landscape, engineering, architect, operating and designer teams worked with such professionalism to build this Silver LEED-certified building from the ground up during a pandemic and with an unblemished safety record. Let’s give them a cheer!

I would also like to thank all of you for being here for today’s event. It means a lot. I want to acknowledge the civic officials who are with us today and those who are not who helped the project. Please raise your hands … Senator Creigh Deeds and Virginia Delegate Sally Hudson … and from the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors Donna Price and Diantha McKeel. Thank you for celebrating with us today.

It is now my honor to introduce the president of the University of Virginia, Jim Ryan. President Ryan, along with Provost Ian Baucom and Chief Operating Officer J.J. Davis, and their teams have been tremendous supporters throughout the project. Thanks to the Office of the Architect, in particular Alice Raucher, and the University Building Office, in particular Don Sundgren. I would also like to thank Rectors Goodwin, Connor, Murray and Clement and the Board of Visitors, which worked on various approvals over the many years this project has been under development.

We are honored to be part of President Ryan’s vision for the future of North Grounds. We thank you and the members of your Cabinet and all of the University leaders who are here with us today, for your partnership.