Faced with protests and threats of mass defections of academic staff, the 15-member board voted to rescind Sullivan's forced resignation on 10 June. The decision was greeted by cheers from her supporters who had gathered outside the meeting.
"Thank you for renewing your confidence in me," Sullivan told the board after the vote. "I want to partner with you in bringing about what's best for the university."
Sullivan had become the University of Virginia's first female leader in August 2010, but was forced out in a surprise move orchestrated by university officials including the rector, Helen Dragas, and vice-rector Mark Kington.
"I cannot tell you how humbled I am," Sullivan told the crowd, according to the Washington Post. "You have shown beyond a shadow of doubt that I am not alone."
"[The board reinstating her] is not a sign of weakness on their part but a sign of strength and a good example to each of us," Sullivan added.
Sullivan's abrupt removal, with little explanation, prompted public outcry in the weeks following the move. Dragas opened the board meeting on Tuesday with an effort to reunite the fractured university community, apologising for the way the situation had been handled. Virginia's governor, Bob McDonnell, had threatened to dismiss the entire university board unless they resolved the situation on Tuesday.
"The situation became enormously dramatized and emotionally charged," Dragas said as the meeting began. "I sincerely apologize for the way this was presented, and you deserve better."
Dragas said she looked forward to moving on in the best interests of the university community.
"I believe real progress is more possible than ever now," Dragas told the group before the vote was taken. "It is unfortunate that we had to have a near death experience to get here."
Sullivan, who had been a popular choice as president when hired, had announced her resignation on 10 June, citing a "philosophical difference of opinion" with the university board.
Emails made public in the weeks after her resignation showed that Dragas and Kington had been planning to oust the president for weeks, along with top university donor Peter Kiernan. Kington and Kiernan resigned from their university posts in the wake of the revelations.
Sullivan defended her performance during a board meeting on 18 June, publishing a 14-page dossier of some of her initiatives since taking office, including hiring a new provost and chief operating officer and adopting a new budgeting model that decentralizes financial planning. She said she was an "incrementalist", and criticized the board's "corporate, top-down leadership" as not being in the university's best interests.
However as the saga dragged on Dragas published a statement of her own on 21 June outlining 10 reasons why a change in leadership was necessary and stating that "the days of incremental decision making in higher education are over".
McDonnell cautioned against recriminations towards Dragas in a lenghty statement on Tuesday afternoon, saying she and others had already received much criticism which had been "very unfortunate and counterproductive".
"The board itself admittedly made mistakes and did not act with the procedural transparency that should be accorded such a significant decision," McDonnell said.
"The board did lay out, in subsequent days, pressing concerns that led members to believe changes at the university were necessary."
Congratulating Sullivan, the governor said the president and the university board "must, and will, work together to to ensure that the university of Virginia continues to be one of the world's foremost institutions of learning and discovery in improving the human condition".
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