Change the way Richmond looks at the Civil War? Inconceivable. But Ayers, a noted historian and president of the University of Richmond since 2007, has done just that. His Future of Richmond’s Past group led the effort to recognize the sesquicentennial not just of the war, but also of emancipation, and see the conflict with fresh eyes. In Ayers’ tenure, the university has also seen its national reputation and application numbers grow. He’s become the go-to academic conscience of Richmond, supplanting what used to be the role of former VCU President Eugene Trani. Ayers has yet to take his smarts and consensus-building skills beyond a historical context. But the point is he could.