UVA’s Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership Taps New Director

Twenty-seven members of the Virginia General Assembly, the current Governor, and two former members of Congress, plus dozens of state and local government leaders and staff who work in public service across Virginia, are among the 2,200 alumni of the Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership at the University of Virginia’s Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service.

Sorensen announced that Lawrence “Larry” Roberts, a veteran Virginia political and legal advisor, has been tapped as their new Director, bringing with him decades of legal and political experience and service on business and civic boards.

Sorensen’s press release added:

“Larry Roberts brings a long record of broad and principled involvement in the civic, legal, and political life of the Commonwealth,” said Larry Terry, executive director of the Weldon Cooper Center. “We look forward to his contributions as we begin the next 25 years of the Sorensen Institute, Virginia’s premiere organization dedicated to preparing leaders for effective and ethical governing.”

The Sorensen Institute was founded as the Virginia Institute of Political Leadership in 1993 by a pair of Charlottesville business leaders with strong ties to UVA, Leigh Middleditch and Michael Bills. In 1997, the organization took the name of its generous benefactor, the late Thomas C. Sorensen.

The Institute, which is part of the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service, operates five distinct programs for aspiring leaders, from those in high school to those looking to develop and run a political campaign.

“The Sorensen Advisory Board welcomes Larry Roberts to this leadership role at a pivotal time in shaping the future of the Sorensen Institute,” said Jacquelyn Stone, partner at McGuire Woods and chair of the Sorensen search committee. “We look forward to Larry joining the Sorensen team in this new role. His work on the boards of the Virginia Public Access Project, Virginia FREE, and the regional and statewide boards for Sorensen, as well as his experience chairing five successful statewide political campaigns, demonstrate his talents.”

Among the 2,200 alumni of Sorensen programs are 27 members of the Virginia General Assembly, the current Governor, and two former members of Congress, plus many dozens of state and local government leaders and staff who work in public service across Virginia.

“I have truly enjoyed working with Larry Roberts in his many past public service roles, including his long service on the Sorensen Advisory board, as he has lived his professional life in accordance with the Sorensen Institute’s principles of trust, civility and respect in politics,” said Jim Cheng, investor, former Secretary of Commerce and Trade for Virginia and a member of the Sorensen Board. “We are very fortunate to have someone with Larry’s experience, wisdom and positive attitude to lead the Sorensen Institute into the challenges of this new decade.”

In addition to working in government and politics, Roberts was a successful lawyer in private practice for more than 20 years, including partnerships with the Skadden Arps and Davis Wright Tremaine international law firms and, most recently, as a partner at Venable LLP. He was President of the Federal Communications Bar Association and was the founding chair of a charitable foundation that has distributed millions of dollars in college scholarships and contributions to organizations serving those in need.

He is a graduate of the University of Virginia and the Georgetown University Law Center. Virginia Law Weekly named him as one of its 2017 Virginia Leaders in the Law, and he won three Federal Communications Bar Association Distinguished Service Awards as well as Venable’s 2017 Pro Bono Lawyer of the Year award.

Roberts’ government service includes positions as Counselor to Governor Tim Kaine and Chief of Staff to Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax.

In each position, he earned praise for working across the partisan aisle.

In accepting the position, Roberts said, “I am honored to be named as Director of the Sorensen Institute. As a Sorensen Fellow, I gained the knowledge and skills to work successfully in Virginia politics and govern while building trust and finding common ground. Now I look forward to ensuring that the Institute continues to develop leaders dedicated to bipartisan and inclusive governing. We have much good work to do with the Sorensen Board, staff, and alumni as well as distinguished colleagues at the Weldon Cooper Center.”

Larry Roberts is expected to assume his new responsibilities on Monday, February 3.

Submitted photo: New Sorensen Institute Director Larry Roberts

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