Robertson: Alumna is first black, female CMO of NBA

Alumna Pam El

Alumna Pam El

Pam El (B.S.’83/MC) has been appointed the new chief marketing officer of the National Basketball Association, according to a statement released by the NBA. El is the first African-American and the first woman to hold the position.

Her responsibilities will include ‘directing brand development, overall marketing and advertising for the NBA, WNBA and NBA Development League,” the statement notes. She reports to NBA Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum.

In a statement, Tatum recalled working with El during her days at State Farm as part of their NBA sponsorship. “She will be a huge addition as we work to build our brand on a global scale,” he stated.

Prior to the NBA, El worked at State Farm for about 11 years before leaving as its marketing VP in mid-2013. Over her 30-year marketing career she’s also worked at the Martin Agency, US WEST, and Terabeam. El graduated with a bachelor’s degree in mass communications from Virginia Commonwealth University.

Read more from UPTOWN Magazine.

Dentistry: Faculty and alumni named Top Dentists

Forty-three VCU School of Dentistry faculty and alumni were recognized in this month’s Richmond Magazine’s Top Dentists survey, which asked local dentists whom they would recommend in a range of dental specialties from 17 categories.

Out of the 52 winners in this year’s survey, School of Dentistry faculty and alumni made up more than 80 percent and were the top vote-getters in 14 of the 17 categories.

They earned spots in all but one category and were the only winners listed in 10 categories: General Dentistry, Hospital Dentistry, Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology, Oral and Maxillofacial Radiology, Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, Oral Cancer, Other Oral Conditions and Diseases, Orthodontics, Technological Advances and Best Instructional Dentist.

John A. Svirsky, D.D.S., professor in the School of Dentistry, was a top vote-getter in three categories – Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology, Oral Cancer and Other Oral Conditions and Diseases. Gregory M. Zoghby, D.D.S., assistant professor in the Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, was also listed in the same three categories, as well as Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery. Continue reading

Take a live look at VCU’s newest buildings

Want to check up on the progress of VCU’s newest buildings under construction?

Take a Future site for the Institute of Contemporary Artlive look at progress on the VCU Institute for Contemporary Art. The ICA broke ground in June 2014 and is expected to take approximately two years to build.

Construction on the new basketball practice facility, expected to finish by June 2015, is also underway. Check on its progress.


VCU Libraries: Best-kept secrets of VCU’s comics

comics_newsIn the 1970s, VCU Libraries began amassing what has grown into one of the country’s most impressive and academically significant collections of comic books and comics-related materials.

VCU’s Comic Arts Collection, which boasts more than 43,000 comic books and more than 150,000 items overall, provides researchers with a wealth of scholarly material and primary resources for the study of culture, history, art, language, politics, business and science through the lens of comic arts.

The collection, located on the fourth floor of James Branch Cabell Library in Special Collections and Archives, includes an array of comic books, graphic novels, original art, fan publications and rare periodicals, representing a variety of artistic styles, literary genres, time periods and subject matters. The collection is open to the public, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Tucked away within VCU’s collection are a number of fascinating, valuable, frequently rare – and, occasionally, one-of-a-kind – comic books and artifacts.

Read more.

Pharmacy: Opportunity to meet the new dean!

Joseph DiPiro

Dean Joseph DiPiro

A reception for new VCU School of Pharmacy Dean Joseph T. DiPiro will take place 6-7:30 p.m. July 22 at the Willow Oaks Country Club, 6228 Forest Hill Ave. in Richmond.

Area alumni and friends of the school are invited to drop by and welcome the dean, whose first official day at the school was July 1.

If you plan to join us for an evening with the dean, RSVPs are requested by July 18. Questions? Call (804) 828-3016.

Arts: Shattering old myths of Down syndrome

Leigh Ann Kaman with her family, including Benjamin, who has Down syndrome

Leigh Ann Kaman with her family, including Benjamin, who has Down syndrome

Leigh Ann Kaman fell to the floor when doctors told her that her newborn son, Benjamin, had Down syndrome. She and her husband, Brian, felt totally alone.

“It’s not the diagnosis you want to hear,” she said. “I felt scared, anxious and sad. I had to grieve the loss of the expectations I had for my first-born child.”

Now 12, Benjamin is enrolled in mainstream classes at school, loves to play sports, read, swim and go hiking with his parents and younger siblings, Samuel and Gracie. A far cry from what his parents feared.

“Quite frankly, we didn’t know what to expect,” Leigh Ann Kaman said. “There wasn’t a lot out there to help us figure it all out.”

That’s why the Kamans are ecstatic to be working with the Virginia Commonwealth University genetics and film departments on a project to help raise awareness about Down syndrome. Along with about a dozen other local families, the Kamans will be featured in a documentary that will illustrate the needs and aspirations of people with Down syndrome and bring about improvements in knowledge and access to community resources.

Read more from MedicalXpress.

Social Work: Man-made disasters fuel worldwide refugee crisis

Miriam George, Ph.D.

Miriam George, Ph.D.

The United Nations recently released a report finding that the number of refugees in the world has climbed to more than 50 million, the highest number since the post-World War II era.

Miriam George, Ph.D., a professor in Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of Social Work, is an expert in global community mental health and refugee trauma. She is currently researching Sri Lankan Tamil refugees in India.

George recently discussed the worldwide rise in refugees, her research in refugee camps and what she thinks must be done to better support displaced people around the globe.

Read more from

Arts: Homework included for Anderson Gallery exhibit

Photo by Patrick Fernandez

Photo by Patrick Fernandez

A Nigerian immigrant who comes to America on a college scholarship. Impending conflict between a megastore and an independent record shop. A family’s multigenerational search for identity.

Jack Wax recommends these stories and more to complement his exhibit, “Imbricative: Drawings by Jack Wax,” on display at the VCU School of the Arts Anderson Gallery through Aug. 3.

Wax, a craft/material studies professor who heads the glass program at VCU, doesn’t normally recommend homework as part of his exhibits, but at the suggestion of gallery director Ashley Kistler, he felt it was appropriate to compile a suggested reading list.

“This is the first time ever that I have had a reading list — and a small check-out-library — in one of my exhibitions,” Wax said. “It’s wonderful. The reading list idea was entirely Ashley Kistler’s idea as we have been exchanging book recommendations and reviews for many, many years.”

The suggested readings accompanying “Imbricative” comprise nonfiction and fiction, including Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s “Americanah,” Michael Chabon’s “Telegraph Avenue” and Amy Tan’s “The Valley of Amazement.” In addition, he will lead a discussion of Alice Munro’s “Dear Life” July 30. Copies of each book are available for loan from the gallery’s lending library.

In another first, Wax, a sculptor best known for his contemplative abstract works with glass, introduces his drawings in this exhibition. Imbrication, or overlapping, is often seen in his work. This project in a way is an extension of that, overlapping his sculptures with his drawings. Two walls from Wax’s studio, complete with drawings, sculptures and other objects such as notes, comics and quotes, have been transposed to the gallery.

Read more.

News from Development and Alumni Relations

Major announcement: Enterprise CRM chosen

Marti Heil

Marti Heil

Many colleagues are talking about the rigorous RFP process that Development and Alumni Relations and VCU Technology Services have been leading over these past six months to select a replacement for our 30-year-old database — an enterprise CRM (constituent relationship management) fundraising database solution. I am excited to announce that the university has finalized a contract with Blackbaud to purchase the Blackbaud eCRM as the database for VCU DAR.

Blackbaud eCRM is a robust and comprehensive solution that combines all the functionality and features required by a complex fundraising operation like VCU’s. Blackbaud eCRM is one of the leading providers in our industry and is used by institutions such as Yale University, Ohio State University, University of Georgia, University of Michigan, UNC-Chapel Hill and Indiana University. This product will allow VCU not only to improve our fundamental business processes but also to enhance all fundraising and universitywide constituent management.

I would like to thank the members of the selection committee for their tireless effort: Jackie Colbert, Alex Henson, Gordon McDougall, Samantha Marrs and Lauren Shiver. The next several weeks will be spent finalizing the project timeline and preparing for Blackbaud team to be on-site and to begin the 12- to 15-month conversion. To learn more, please review information about the project on our website.

New leadership team
I am pleased to announce two recent additions to our DAR leadership team.

Christopher Ritrievi recently started as senior associate vice president for campaign leadership and constituent relations. As senior AVP, Chris serves as campaign director and works closely with deans, development directors and other senior leaders in portfolio management. Chris previously worked in fundraising at institutions including Princeton, Stanford and Michigan State. Most recently, he helped to plan a $1 billion campaign at Indiana University’s Bloomington Campus. He holds an M.B.A. from Lehigh University and a bachelor’s degree in economics from Princeton.

Henry Davis III, CPA, joins us as the new director of budget and finance. Henry most recently worked at GRTC Transit System where, as CFO and controller, he was responsible for a $47 million annual budget. Henry has a degree in commerce and accounting from the University of Virginia, and he joins our team at a key point in our campaign budget planning.


Marti K.S. Heil
Vice President
Development and Alumni Relations

P.S.: I hope you will join VCU Alumni as we welcome the Class of 2018 to campus at the annual Ram Spirit Walk on Aug. 19. Learn more.
By the numbers: July 1-June 15
*Complete end-of-fiscal year numbers were not available yet, but we did not want to delay our announcement.

  • $61.6 million raised toward goal of $70.3 million
  • 10,625 active, dues-paying members of VCU Alumni
  • 10,474 alumni donors
  • $8.2 million raised from alumni donors

Efforts by the Gold Line call center (annual fund) resulted in:

  • 4,464 new gift and pledges for a total of $361,803
  • 1,859 first-time donors making a pledge or gift
  • 36 percent of all Gold Line gifts made via credit card
  • 851,000 dials or attempts

Giving highlights
* Significant gifts and pledges recorded in the past quarter include:

  • The Beverly J. Warren Scholarship was established through gifts and pledges of more than $115,000 from the VCU community in honor of Provost Beverly J. Warren, who left VCU to become the 12th president of Kent State University. Read more.
  • Marty Johnson, M.D. (H.S.’80/M), and Olinda Young (B.S.’75/E; M.P.A.’81/H&S), donated to VCU a Sefer Torah, a powerful symbol and moving presence in Jewish worship and community life. It will be held and safeguarded by the VCU Libraries’ Special Collections and Archives. Read more.
  • The Children’s Hospital Foundation Endowed Chair in Pediatric Cancer Research was established in the Massey Cancer Center and will be used to attract and retain scientists or physician-scientists whose focus relates to pediatric cancer research.
  • Through a $500,000 gift from HCA, the HCA Distinguished Executive in Residence Professorship was established in the School of Allied Health Professions’ Department of Health Administration. Each year, one or more distinguished active or retired industry executives will be selected to serve as the Executive in Residence for a period of one to four weeks.

Alumni highlights

  • VCU Alumni conducted its inaugural annual meeting and a leaders’ colloquium in May.
  • At spring Commencement, VCU Alumni welcomed our newest graduates and their families, distributing more than 5,000 goodie bags and offering a “selfie” station.
  • In April, VCU Alumni celebrated Alumni Month with more than 60 activities and events, including Rams Night Out, Monroe Scholars Book and Author Luncheon and a winery tour.
  • Also during Alumni Month, more than 630 alumni and guests came to campus for the annual Reunion Weekend. MCV Campus alumni who are graduates of 1964 and before and those who graduated in a year ending in 4 or 9 were invited back, along with all RPI alumni and members of the African-American Alumni Council. See pictures from the weekend. Save the date for next year’s Reunion: April 17-19, 2015
  • This year’s Rams at Work program saw more than 175 boxes of VCU spirit items shipped to alumni in their workplaces throughout the country.
  • VCU Alumni kept busy in March, too, hitting the road for the A-10 and NCAA tournaments and hosting events in NYC and San Diego. Regional chapters nationwide threw watch parties for local alumni to cheer on the Rams.

Event highlights

  • Sixty-one Virginia Commonwealth University faculty were invested in endowed professorship and chair positions at a May ceremony at The Jefferson Hotel in Richmond, Virginia. About 300 guests, including donors, faculty, friends and family, gathered to recognize their accomplishments and to thank generous donors for their support.
  • More than 350 Virginia Commonwealth University scholarship donors and student recipients gathered in February 2014 for the 15th annual Monroe Park Campus Endowed Scholarship Dinner at The Jefferson Hotel. Hosted by the VCU Foundation, the School of Business Foundation and the School of Engineering Foundation, the event brought students and donors together in an atmosphere of gratitude and celebration. See photos from the event.
  • The MCV Foundation hosted a capacity crowd of 390 at the ninth annual Scholarship Brunch in February bringing together donors of named scholarships and their respective scholars. See photos from the event.
  • The MCV Society gathered for a reception in April at Historic Tredegar. This annual event recognized all donors who have made planned gifts to benefit the MCV Campus.
  • The Shining Knight Gala, held March 29, highlighted Candi Spraggins and her team of caregivers. The gala raised $143,000 to support the Injury and Violence Prevention Program at the VCU Level 1 Trauma Center.
  • The 2014 Massey Challenge powered by HDL, Inc. culminated at this year’s Ukrop’s Monument Avenue 10k presented by MARTIN’S on March 29. More than 3,000 participants ran, walked, or cheered to raise funds and awareness for research at VCU Massey Cancer Center in Massey’s largest annual fundraiser, raising nearly $500,000 this year.

Nursing: Beloved friend of school’s memory honored

Debbie Lewis

Debbie Lewis

On Feb. 21, the VCU School of Nursing lost a dear friend, Deborah B. Lewis. Known for her generous spirit, warm smile and can-do attitude, Lewis had served in various administrative staff positions at the VCU School of Nursing for 15 years before retiring as assistant building manager in fall 2013.

It is in tribute to her kind and generous spirit that faculty and staff of the School of Nursing, plus family and friends, joined together to create the Debbie Lewis Memorial Scholarship. Thirty-eight donors have given more than $8,000 through gifts and pledges to this fund with commitments secured to take the fund to the $10,000 endowment level. The final goal is $10,000 or more to create the scholarship as a permanent endowment to provide a scholarship every fall for an undergraduate nursing student.

“The Debbie Lewis Scholarship is such a shining example of the familial relationships we have here at the school. While not a nurse, Debbie embodied generosity, kindness, joy, humor, and had one of the strongest work ethics I have ever seen. It was an honor to recognize Debbie’s contributions to our school and to keep her spirit alive through this scholarship.” said Kathleen Martin Bell, RNC-OB, WHNP-BC (B.S.’07/N, M.S.’11/N), clinical instructor in the VCU School of Nursing.

To make a gift to this fund, please give online. Select “other” as the option and type in Debbie Lewis Scholarship in the drop-down box.