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Ed Brickell — from Franklin Schools superintendent to university president

By Robert Holt

When the Franklin School Division was established in July 1961, Edward E. Brickell was hired as its first superintendent. Born in 1926 in South Norfolk (now Chesapeake), he served in the Army Air Corps during World War 2 as a bombardier.

He then attended The College of William and Mary and graduated earning Phi Beta Kappa honors (PBK is considered the most prestigious of all academic honor societies and was founded at William and Mary in 1776). He earned a master’s degree from the University of Chicago and a doctorate from William and Mary.

Dr. Brickell began in 1951 his education career as a teacher and coach at what is now Oscar Smith High School in Chesapeake. By 1959 he had become principal there and was later named superintendent of Chesapeake Schools.

He was named the first superintendent of Franklin Schools and served several years in that capacity before returning to William and Mary as assistant to President Paschall. From 1968-87 he was superintendent of Virginia Beach Schools. Concurrently, he served on the William and Mary Board for eight years and as chairman for four of those years.

Perhaps his most significant contribution to education in Virginia began in 1988 when he was named President of Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk. Before he retired in 2000, EVMS experienced enormous growth and advancement. Enrollment increased, infrastructure was expanded, and increased services were provided. Endowment funds increased from $18 to 40 million, more than 90 full-time faculty positions were added, and centers for excellence were created in pediatrics, geriatrics, hearing and balance, and cancer research. His legacy has been assured with the naming of the Edward E. Brickell Medical Science Library on campus.

After his retirement from EVMS, Dr. Brickell served as an adjunct professor teaching English at Regent University and Virginia Wesleyan University. He died on June 12, 2015, at home at the age of 88. 

It would be difficult to find one person who touched so many lives and created such a better situation for us all in so many ways.

ROBERT N. BOB” HOLT is a graduate of Franklin High School and Virginia Tech. He can be reached at hrobert@vt.edu.