Robert C. Pianta IDEAs Fund
After fifteen years of service, Bob Pianta, the Batten Bicentennial Professor of Early Childhood Education, stepped down as Dean of the School of Education and Human Development at the end of the 2021-2022 academic year.
Pianta’s leadership in expanding the scope and excellence of the school’s programs drew attention and recognition across the country. Under Pianta’s tenure as dean, the School of Education and Human Development soared in U.S. News and World Report rankings from No. 35 to No. 15, with its online portfolio ranked No. 10. Year after year, individual programs within the school were also ranked among the top 10 nationally, many in the top five. And the faculty is routinely recognized among the top in the country’s best, according to Education Week.
To recognize Bob’s service to the school, with gifts from the Foundation’s Board of Directors, alumni and friends of the school the Foundation established the Robert C. Pianta Endowed Fund for IDEAs, designed to award grants to select faculty and students each year for their innovative research. The fund will serve as a new funding source for the IDEAs competition, which stands for Innovative, Developmental, Exploratory Awards. It will ensure that for years to come students and faculty will receive grant funding for projects that advance both their careers and the fields of education and human development through the development of innovative research.
The announcement of the new fund was made at the Dean’s Circle of Friends Dinner, an annual gathering to honor the school’s many generous donors and benefactors. Gathering in person for the first time in two years, the event was especially celebratory as donors and members of the UVA School of Education and Human Development Foundation board were joined by faculty leaders, UVA President Jim Ryan, friends, and Pianta’s family to honor and surprise him with the announcement of this new endowed fund.
“I am honored by the generosity of so many friends of the school,” Pianta said. “More importantly, I am excited about the opportunities this fund will bring for our faculty and students and the impact it will have on elevating our capacity for work that makes a difference in the lives of people.”
Ragan Folan, a UVA alumna and parent, is chair of the UVA School of Education and Human Development Foundation and announced the new fund during the dinner.
UVA President Jim Ryan also spoke at the event, where he shared about his long friendship with Pianta, including how he sought Pianta’s counsel upon his own appointment as dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Prior to highlighting many accomplishments Pianta achieved as dean, Ryan described Pianta as “the best dean of an education school I have ever known.” Ultimately, Ryan credited Pianta’s high level of success to both his professional expertise and his character.
The event concluded with Pianta offering remarks of his own, reflecting on the invaluable impact relationships have had on his life, his scholarship and his role as dean.
“Every time I reflect on my time as dean I can’t not think about the value of relationships,” Pianta shared. “Although I am deeply grateful for and acknowledge the great work we’ve done over the past 15 years, I am equally convinced nothing about my efforts or the school’s successes we celebrate are attributable to me. Rather, I have had the privilege and good fortune of working at the confluence of a leadership role and the deep, rich, and resourceful network of relationships we have shared.”
After thanking his predecessors, Pianta acknowledged his family, his mentors, school faculty and staff, friends, and members of the foundation board, before closing with a reminder that the work of the School of Education and Human Development could not be more essential, “identifying, activating and supporting human potential.”
To support the Robert C. Pianta Endowed Fund for IDEAs, visit the UVA giving website.