VCU names new vice president for university relations

Grant J. Heston has been named vice president for university relations, a cabinet-level position in which he will serve as chief communications officer for Virginia Commonwealth University and VCU Health System. At VCU, he will oversee external and internal communications that advance VCU’s brand and reputation. Heston begins in the position Jan. 10.Grant Heston. [View Image] Grant Heston.

From 2007 to 2019, Heston worked as vice president for communications and marketing and chief of staff at the University of Central Florida, one of the largest and most diverse research universities in the country. His teams helped UCF break records for brand recognition, admissions quality and quantity, graduation and retention rates, and more.

Heston built a partnership-based centralized communications and marketing structure at UCF and developed and executed a rebranding initiative to help the university compete for students, revenue and reputation in statewide, national and global markets.

“Grant is an excellent addition to the leadership team at VCU,” said VCU President Michael Rao, Ph.D. “He brings a wealth of higher education communications leadership experience and strategy, which is essential to strengthen and advance the unmatchable story of the VCU enterprise brand.”

In 2020, Heston worked as vice president for communications and marketing at Florida Southern College, the oldest private college in the state and ranked in the top 10 by U.S. News & World Report in multiple categories. In that role, he created crisis response plans to help guide the institution through the COVID-19 pandemic and launched marketing campaigns to maintain enrollment.

“Thanks to its commitment to enrolling and graduating students from all backgrounds, VCU is at the vanguard of redefining higher education in America,” Heston said. “With its world-class academic, research and health care enterprises, VCU is leading higher education into the future. For a storyteller like me, there’s no better place to be and I’m honored to join the university.”

Heston received his bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Florida and his master’s degree in business administration from the University of Central Florida. At Harvard University, he attended the Institute for Educational Management, a program designed for senior executives to focus on higher education leadership skills and develop long-term strategies for institutional success. 

Heston replaces Pamela D. Lepley, who was promoted to senior adviser to the president at VCU after serving as vice president for university relations since 2014. Lepley joined VCU in 2002.

“I am very grateful for the hard work, dedication and difference Pam made during her time leading university relations,” Rao said. “And I look forward to continuing to work together with her.”

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