It wasn’t just the University of Mary Washington campus in its autumn colors or its status as a premier public liberal arts and sciences institution that persuaded Craig Erwin to accept the position of vice president for administration and finance.
When Erwin came to interview from his home near Austin, Texas, he met campus constituents from President Troy D. Paino to faculty, staff and students – a welcoming and engaging process, he said, that impressed him with UMW’s quality of leadership and commitment to the future.
Even more compelling is the chance to join an institution where his skills and experience can truly make a difference. UMW’s next few years include plans for a $117 million theatre complex and other campus improvements. At the same time, the university is committed to keeping tuition and costs affordable, expanding student opportunities, and strengthening its financial reserves.
Erwin was identified through a national search to succeed Paul Messplay, who retires from the top financial role Jan. 20, 2023, after 15 years of distinguished service to UMW. “Paul has served this University exceedingly well and is leaving a great team for Craig,” noted President Paino.
Erwin will join Mary Washington on Jan. 10, 2023. He brings a strong background in higher education financial administration. Most recently he was vice president for finance and administration/chief financial officer of Southwestern University, a private liberal arts college in Georgetown, Texas.
President Paino explained, “Craig’s experience in the private sector can bring added value to UMW as we collectively navigate the University through a time of great change and a challenging market.”
Erwin is excited to join a public institution after 17 years in private higher education, knowing from his own experience the important role public colleges play in changing students’ lives. Through strong academic performance in high school, he earned a full tuition scholarship at an in-state, public university. This access to education from a public university opened doors and provided opportunity for the first-generation college student.
At Louisiana Tech University, he majored in biomedical engineering but became interested in business after taking an operations management class during senior year. Through exploration of business careers and opportunities, he took the Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT) and earned a full scholarship to the MBA program at Texas Christian University.
After graduate school he worked in corporate finance for several years. But when he and wife Jenn welcomed their first child, they realized living in Dallas and commuting several hours a day was not providing the desired quality of life for their newly expanded household. After deciding to move to Nebraska to be near family, Erwin landed a job at private nonprofit Bellevue University and found higher education a rewarding and refreshing change from the corporate world.
In recent years at Southwestern University, he’s directly overseen the annual operating budget and been responsible for financial statements, tax returns and related functions. He’s led more than 100 team members in such fields as human resources, information technology, facilities management and finance, whose functions reported to his office. He’s handled risk management, legal, and emergency response issues. He’s facilitated the completion of the most recent campus master plan and financial strategic plan, while also serving as the senior administrator for board committees including fiscal, facilities, audit and investments.
After many years in Nebraska and Texas, it’s time for another change. Experiencing Virginia’s four seasons appeals to Craig, Jenn, their high-school sophomore son, and their college sophomore daughter who attends school in Florida – they’d like to see some snow, for one thing. And Fredericksburg, with its proximity to Washington, Richmond and the Blue Ridge Mountains, appeals to them just as it appeals to the incoming students who choose Mary Washington every year.
Though Erwin evaluated opportunities with other universities, everything seemed to come together at UMW. “Both the University and Fredericksburg feel like a really good fit,” he said, “a great place and position for the next phase of my professional career and also a wonderful community for my family to fully engage and enjoy life.”