VersAbility Board Member Quentin Kidd is Home for Good at CNU

Portrait of board member Quentin K

Quentin Kidd planned to stay at Christopher Newport University a few years at most.

Twenty-seven years later, the Executive Vice President and Provost has no intention of leaving.

He discovered early on what many come to realize later.

“Relationships matter, and I am in a place where I have some very good ones,” says Kidd, who also serves on the Board of Directors for VersAbility Resources, the Hampton nonprofit that supports people with disabilities leading productive and fulfilling lives of their choosing.

Albuquerque-born Kidd had earned a bachelor’s at the University of Arkansas followed by his master’s and doctorate at Texas Tech. When his wife, Holly, got a civil engineering position in Hampton Roads in 1997, he started as an assistant professor of political science at CNU.

“After a few years I was going to look around for a job at a bigger university,” he says. “I thought I needed to be in a major metropolitan area.”

Kidd’s mindset changed when he taught his first poli sci class that met weekly for three hours. Nineteen students were enrolled — 18 middle-aged women and one teenager. “I was the youngest person in the class, and I fell in love with that,” he says. Classes that long typically have a break in the middle. Kidd, an avid marathon runner at the time, recalls pulling out food from his backpack during those few minutes to replenish.

“By the third week I did the same thing and all the women pulled out their covered dishes,” he says. “They were all moms. Literally for the entire semester, we had a potluck during our break. I had never been in a situation where students and professors get to know each other. I had never been in a place where I had the ability to have those kinds of relationships.”

Today CNU looks and feels like a true college campus thanks to $1 billion in capital construction that began when former Congressman Paul Trible took over as president in 1996. Most students are full-time and residential, the CNU endowment is more than $54 million and the school consistently ranks in the top five among public regional universities in the South.

VersAbility provides opportunities and services for people who otherwise might struggle to have them.

Kidd and fellow CNU Professor Judy Wason went on to launch what is now known as The Wason Center for Civic Leadership. Initially, the center focused on polling, seeking to give Virginia a bigger voice in the national discussion. Given today’s digital tools that changed how we poll, the Wason Center evolved into a student program that fosters engagement in the public policy domain. “It has given me lots of opportunities to see and meet people and engage in the debate myself,” Kidd says. “It’s also a lesson in being open to taking opportunities as they come.”

Truth be told, Kidd didn’t grow up seeing himself in the academic realm. He dreamed of being a Green Beret after an early fascination with all things Rambo. College became more appealing after he enlisted in the military, completing basic training at age 17.

“After a couple of years of that and not becoming a Green Beret, I decided college was not such a bad thing,” he says.

Completing a general education elective his first semester at Texas Tech introduced him to an American government professor who became a mentor. Once he discovered political science, he never looked back, interning multiple places in Washington, D.C., before completing his PhD in 1998. CNU was his first job.

Three times he was named Professor of the Year and his numerous teaching honors include the Outstanding Faculty Award from the State Council of Higher Education.

As much as Kidd enjoyed the classroom, the move to administration as a Vice Provost, Dean and today Provost and Executive Vice President stemmed from a desire to create opportunities for the faculty that will elevate CNU at all levels.

“I embrace the responsibility of challenges and moving CNU forward in a constructive, positive way,” he says.

Kidd is in his second year on the VersAbility Resources Board of Directors. As a longtime admirer of the nonprofit’s work under its President and CEO Kasia Grzelkowski, it was an easy yes when she asked him to join the volunteer board. This mission also resonates with him.

“We’re only as good as a society as all of us can prosper in our own way,” he says. “VersAbility plays a role in that in a big way. VersAbility provides opportunities and services for people who otherwise might struggle to have them. That is an important responsibility we have as a society and VersAbility is doing its part.”

Kidd looks forward to the challenges that lie ahead for VersAbility, which serves more than 1,500 people with disabilities and their families. On tap: the emergence of AI and automation, which could lead to fewer job opportunities. “We have to address that,” he said. “That’s a challenge for corporate America and higher education, too. We need to think through it and strategize about how to best address that.”

In his free time, Kidd remains an avid runner, having completed two dozen marathons. He most enjoys running along the Noland Trail near his neighborhood.

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