Community members, VCU reflect on tradition of community-university partnerships

Representatives of the Carver Area Civic Improvement League honor Catherine Howard, Ph.D., vice provost for community engagement at VCU, (center) for her work on the Carver-VCU Partnership. Tito Luna, neighborhood outreach director at VCU, is at far left. Barbara Abernathy, a key figure in the founding of the partnership, is third from right.
Photos by Steven Casanova.

In 1996, Barbara Abernathy, president of the Carver Area Civic Improvement League, felt a creeping concern about Virginia Commonwealth University’s potential expansion into the Carver neighborhood on the north side of Broad Street, particularly in light of the pending construction of the Siegel Center. She arranged an appointment with then-VCU President Eugene Trani, Ph.D., to discuss those nagging worries and invited along her City Council representative, Tim Kaine, the future governor and U.S. senator.

The meeting proved highly productive with an open and candid exchange and marked the beginning of something new and vital between the neighborhood and university. From that appointment forward, a close collaboration developed between Carver and VCU that still thrives today. For more than two decades, the Carver-VCU Partnership has worked to create a shared urban community with a commitment to improving the neighborhood’s quality of life, while providing learning opportunities for students.

At the 10th anniversary celebration of VCU’s Division of Community Engagement on Wednesday, held at Cabell Library, Kaine reflected via a recorded video message on that partnership and VCU’s other community-minded contributions to the Richmond area. He called the university “a wonderful academic institution” that was also a “vibrant heart” of the city.

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