VCU Alumni’s 2017 Alumni Stars!

Throughout the worlds of art, business, education, service and health care, VCU alumni reflect the brilliance of the university. Their knowledge and experience shine in all areas of human endeavor, illuminating problems, creating solutions and strengthening the quality of our lives.

VCU Alumni invites you to join us Nov. 3 at the Science Museum of Virginia for an inspirational program, cocktails and a seated three-course dinner as we honor the 2017 Alumni Stars.

VCU Alumni members can purchase individual tickets for $75 or a 10-seat table sponsorship for $750. Nonmember tickets are $100 or $1,000 per table. Sponsors are recognized in the printed program. RSVP by Oct. 25.

 


Elizabeth Prom-Wormley, Ph.D.

1999 Master of Public Health
School of Medicine

2007 Doctor of Philosophy
VCU Life Sciences

Elizabeth Prom-Wormley, Ph.D., walked across the stage at VCU’s Commencement in May 2017 and placed a hood around the neck of her first Ph.D. student. She found herself flashing back to her own hooding 10 years before as the first graduate of the doctoral program in integrative life sciences.

“As my newly minted doctor smiled broadly and walked across the stage, shaking hands with the president of the university, I remembered my excitement [as a new Ph.D.] and how hopeful I was for the future,” she says. “I also remembered how grateful I was at that time. I was grateful to my nuclear family, my parents, brother and husband, for supporting me. I was also deeply grateful to my academic family, the one that comes directly from being at VCU, because this institution was, and continues to be, the source of so many opportunities and possibilities for my career.”

With an undergraduate degree in kinesiology from the College of William & Mary, Prom-Wormley came to VCU in 1997 to pursue a master’s in public health. After graduation, she worked as a research assistant at the Virginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics, housed in the VCU School of Medicine’s Department of Psychiatry. Inspired by a lecture on the genetic epidemiology of drug abuse and with the encouragement of her supervisor, she decided to apply to the newly formed Ph.D. in Integrative Life Sciences program in VCU Life Sciences, which gave her the space and training necessary to think about mental health outcomes as complex biological and social problems. She continued to research these principles as a Ph.D. candidate in life sciences and as an assistant professor in the VCU Department of Family Medicine and Population Health.

Her Ph.D. adviser, Lindon Eaves, Ph.D., professor emeritus in the VCU School of Medicine, evolved into “the most instrumental individual in my personal and professional life,” Prom-Wormley says. “In particular, our weekly meetings over tea on his patio promoted a great deal of fascinating work and inspired me to think carefully as a scientist.”

In fall 2011, she received the outstanding teacher award in the VCU Department of Human and Molecular Genetics. She also was honored for excellence in postdoctoral research by the Virginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics in 2010.
Prom-Wormley hopes to continue researching avenues for applying genetic epidemiology results within the public health framework, particularly in prevention and treatment of smoking and nicotine dependence. She has been working on community-engaged research involving residents, elected officials and organizational leaders in Richmond’s East End.

She also hopes to continue developing as a mentor to students who someday will take that walk across the stage at Commencement, just like she did.


Eduardo D. Rodriguez, M.D., D.D.S.

1999 Doctor of Medicine
School of Medicine

It was front-page news out of NYU Langone Health in August 2015. In a 26-hour operation, the face of a 26-year-old bike mechanic who was declared brain-dead after a cycling crash was transplanted onto a 41-year-old former firefighter who was severely burned in the line of duty.

Leading the team that performed the most extensive facial transplant ever was VCU School of Medicine alumnus Eduardo D. Rodriguez, M.D., D.D.S., the Helen L. Kimmel Professor of Reconstructive Plastic Surgery and chair of the Hansjörg Wyss Department of Plastic Surgery at NYU Langone. The painstakingly delicate surgery was a resounding success.

Becoming a leader in facial transplantation, Rodriguez says, wasn’t an anticipated career goal. “However, I’ve always had an interest in finding solutions to difficult problems, and this pursuit has led me to the position in which I currently reside,” he says.
Rodriguez and his team at NYU Langone are planning for future reconstructive procedures while expanding the face transplant program’s clinical, research and education/training efforts.

“Clinical efforts will focus on patient selection and achieving the most optimal aesthetic and functional results,” he says. “Research efforts are focused on improving immune surveillance and designing patient-specific targeted immune therapies to lessen drug toxicity without increasing risk of transplant rejection.”

Rodriguez, the son of Cuban immigrants, was born and raised in Miami. His road to VCU began with undergraduate education at the University of Florida followed by a dental degree from NYU College of Dentistry. He completed a residency in oral and maxillofacial surgery at Montefiore Medical Center/Albert Einstein College of Medicine before enrolling at VCU, where he earned his medical degree in 1999.

“I was fortunate to have been part of a newly designed education curriculum there and certainly received the best medical education at VCU,” he says.

In addition to pioneering clinical achievements, Rodriguez has written more than 130 articles and 21 book chapters. He is a member of numerous national and international professional societies, and he was the Dawson Theogaraj visiting professor in plastic surgery on VCU’s MCV Campus in 2016.

Rodriguez is quick to share credit for his accomplishments and accolades.

“I am lucky to have been mentored by remarkable individuals, and along the way, I have worked hard but have enjoyed every moment,” he says. “I have learned from the most challenging moments, and that is why one must always look forward and never give up.”


Linda M. Warren

1975 Bachelor of Science
School of Business

Linda M. Warren admits that she enrolled at VCU carrying a University of Richmond “snob bias.” She spent two undergraduate years at Richmond, then transferred to VCU for financial reasons.

“Since I could finish my last two years at VCU for what one semester at Richmond would have cost, VCU was the only viable choice,” she says, revealing her early business acumen.

The academic switch turned into a positive for generations of VCU accounting students. “When I went to take the CPA exam, I did not study at all for it, looking for it to be a test of how well the professors in the School of Business taught me,” Warren recalls. “I passed three of the four parts the first time and got the highest failing grade possible in law. I went to the dean of the business school to complain that I had just taken two semesters of business law, gotten A’s in both, but didn’t pass the law part of the exam. As a result of my complaint, a new class was established, Law for Accountants, that helped future students be better prepared.”

Warren began her career at Philip Morris USA in 1975 as the first degreed female accountant hired in financial accounting by the company. Twelve years later, she was promoted to assistant controller in accounting services and was named Philip Morris USA controller in 1993. She assumed the position of assistant controller for financial services in 1997 and was responsible for consolidated accounting, reporting, disbursements and internal controls.

She retired in 2012 as vice president and controller for Altria Group, parent company of Philip Morris, with responsibility for shared payment services, headquarters accounting and external financial reporting.

“When I graduated,” she says, “I never dreamed that I would have that amazing of a career.”

Warren serves on the VCU Controllers Executive Roundtable Steering Committee and is immediate past chair of The Richmond Forum board of directors. She is a Life member of VCU Alumni and an active member of its Business Alumni Society, a trustee of the School of Business Foundation board and is chair of the audit committee of VCU Alumni.

With her gift in 2015 to establish the Linda M. Warren Student Enrichment Fund, she recognized the importance of experiential learning and her support sets business students on a path to success in the classroom and in the workplace.

“My education at VCU was excellent,” says Warren, a VCU Alumni Life Member and major donor. “Not only did the professors teach academics, they taught us to work hard, and I recall the most important lesson ever taught to me. It was from John Sperry, my cost accounting professor, who told the class one day: ‘Everyone has their price. Make sure yours is so high, no one can ever afford to pay it.’”


Peter Zucker, Ph.D.

1981 Master of Science, 1984 Doctor of Philosophy
College of Humanities and Sciences

Peter Zucker, Ph.D., was in the throes of dissertation work for his doctorate in counseling psychology at the VCU College of Humanities and Sciences when he had the opportunity to take graduate-level elective courses in the VCU School of Business.

“Through my regular informal discussions with Department of Psychology faculty, I began to develop a vision of a professional career that combined psychology, management and leadership,” Zucker says. “It was a true ‘aha’ experience.”

After earning his Ph.D., Zucker worked at an adolescent residential treatment center in Los Angeles and soon progressed as a supervisor, manager, clinical director, administrator, senior executive and CEO.

Drawing on his training in counseling psychology and the business elective courses and internships in management and organizational development, Zucker co-founded Stars Behavioral Health Group in 1988, which today is one of the largest behavioral health care organizations in California, serving more than 30,000 clients and their families annually.

“Co-founding a company and then leading it to deliver mental health treatment and counseling services to foster youth and public sector mentally ill patients is my major professional accomplishment,” says Zucker, who recently retired as president and CEO of the organization.

Currently, he has combined his passion for human services with his entrepreneurial spirit to help many other organizations achieve large-scale success, including several behavioral health companies and not-for-profit boards. One board of special significance is the California Mental Health Advocates for Children & Youth, the state’s leader in advocating for foster youth and families. As an officer of the organization, Zucker helps lead an annual conference where county, state and national leaders in the behavioral health and education sectors meet parents and youth to discuss their experiences and where ideas for new clinical advances take shape.

Zucker credits VCU with instilling many of the qualities necessary to work in the behavioral health field.

“The support, guidance and, eventually, partnership I was given with my teachers and professors was exceptional, warm, instructive, mentoring and inspiring,” he says. “I have strived to give back to my community and clients and families the very same approach of support, equality, independence and choice in helping people and families achieve the goals they set for themselves.”

In fall 2015, Zucker, a Life member of VCU Alumni, honored his beginnings in the VCU Department of Psychology by establishing the Dr. Peter Zucker Scholarship, which provides support to a graduate student in psychology with career aspirations in health care or behavioral health care management, organizational development, executive consulting or leadership in the field.


Anna Lou Schaberg

1966 Bachelor of Science
College of Humanities and Sciences

1970 Master of Education
School of Education

Anna Lou Aaroe’s transition from Douglas Freeman High School in Richmond, Virginia, to Richmond Professional Institute was a mere 12 miles.

Although she continued to remain close to her alma mater geographically, it wasn’t until long after she had earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from RPI and a master’s in education from its descendant, VCU, had raised two children and had retired from her education career that Anna Lou Aaroe Schaberg became an active alumna.

“In the ’60s, RPI/VCU was my Volkswagen school; it got me where I needed to go,” says Schaberg, a Life member of VCU Alumni. “Fifty years later, VCU is a BMW!”

Schaberg worked with Richmond Public Schools for 29 years, and for 23 of those, from 1977 through 2000, she coordinated programs for gifted students. She developed a variety of programs including SPACE (Special Program for Academic and Creative Excellence), which continues to serve gifted youth in city elementary and middle schools.

Schaberg had a deep interest in civic work and in 1982 joined the Richmond First Club, which generates conversation among regional leaders and residents on current topics of civic and public affairs. There, she met her husband, Bob Schaberg. Their marriage has proven to be an amazing partnership. At retirement in 2000, Schaberg began serving as executive director of the Bob & Anna Lou Schaberg Fund at the Virginia Nonprofit Housing Coalition. The fund supports nonprofit organizations and institutions that successfully help vulnerable populations become stable and thriving. Bob founded the fund and manages its finances, and while it began on a small scale, the fund now supports more than 55 organizations in greater Richmond with grant, gift and capacity-building programs.

“Because we now see a broad array of providers, we have grown from being reactive funders to being community collaborators and are often able to ‘connect the dots’ between nonprofits,” Schaberg says. “We have taken deeper dives into issues with initiatives around workforce development, homeless youth and affordable housing.”

A current initiative they are addressing is meeting the needs of the refugee population in western Henrico County. The fund has held a series of educational forums for service providers and is supporting the development of a hub for area services. VCU School of Education faculty have provided technical support with a service provider database, and a VCU Center for Refugee Entrepreneurial Opportunity is in development.

Schaberg, who serves on the Advancement Council for the School of Education, has supported the school’s service-learning program at four area middle schools. Taught by the school’s teacher candidates, she says, it is an important first experience for those planning a career in education. The fund also has been a staunch backer of CreateAthon@VCU, where students use their creative talents to help fulfill marketing needs of nonprofits in Richmond.

When thinking about her approach to community investment, Schaberg says it is simple: “I like to invest in dedicated people and innovative approaches to critical issues.”


Gregory H. Wingfield

1974 Bachelor of Science, 1976 Master of Urban and Regional Planning
L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs

One afternoon in 1974, intern Gregory H. Wingfield left his office in the State Community Development Department on Main Street in Richmond, Virginia, looking to hitch a ride or catch a bus to his 4 p.m. urban studies class at VCU. Coincidentally, department director, T. Edward Temple, Ph.D., also his urban studies professor, pulled over and offered him a lift.

“After a couple times stopping to pick me up on Main Street, he said, ‘Why don’t we meet in the parking deck at 3:30 and drive to class together?’” Wingfield recalls, amazed that a professor would offer a ride to “a hippie-looking guy with shoulder-length hair.” As the semester wore on, Temple and Wingfield conversed on the ride to class about topics ranging from classroom assignments to local and national politics.

“Upon reflection, I believe I got more real-world experience in the 15-minute car rides than I got
in class. The one-to-one dialogue was the key to the difference. I was honored that when I graduated, he allowed me to use him as a reference as I began to look for full-time employment in the community development field. This was even more amazing as he was, at that time, the new president of VCU!”

When Wingfield began to run his own organizations, he made a point of hiring interns from his alma mater. His career has included stops at state and regional agencies such as the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development, Forward Hampton Roads and Greater Richmond Partnership Inc.

He is proud to have been involved with teams that attracted to Virginia more than 800 new businesses that created more than 100,000 new jobs. He also has been honored the Virginia Economic Development Association’s highest honor, the Cardinal award for support of the profession.

Wingfield retired in 2015, the same year he became a senior fellow in the Wilder School and started GH Wingfield Consulting. He has served on the VCU School of Business Foundation board and is a loyal volunteer and donor to the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs and the School of Business.

Giving back is a pillar of his life. “I feel I owe folks for the opportunity they gave me when I first got started,” he says. “Now I have made the perfect circle by coming back to VCU’s Wilder School 40 years after I graduated.”


Amy T. Rose, M.D., FACS

1990 Bachelor of Science
College of Humanities and Sciences

Amy T. Rose, a native of rural Spotsylvania County, Virginia, enrolled at VCU with significant logistical challenges. “My family did not have much money, my mother was ill and my father had retired to take care of her, leaving us searching for additional funds,” Rose says.

She had earned a VCU Presidential Scholarship, which covers tuition and fees, but the award was for only one year. “Along with Dr. [Arthur] Seidenberg [emeriti faculty, College of Humanities and Sciences], I was able to help make the case that attracting and keeping other presidential scholars in the future would be substantially helped by making that scholarship for four years,” she says. “Being able to effect a change in that manner helped me understand the importance of actively working to create positive change.”

Rose, who was an Honors College student, graduated from VCU in 1990 with a B.S. in Chemistry. She earned a medical degree from Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in 1994 and completed a general surgery internship at State University of New York, Stony Brook, a four-year general surgery residency at Vanderbilt and a research fellowship in surgery at UCLA. She spent four years in private practice in Biloxi, Mississippi.

Today, she is a laparoscopic general surgeon at Surgical Associates of Richmond, treating patients at the practice’s Johnston-Willis and Chippenham locations. She is a diplomat of the American Board of Surgery, a fellow of the American Board of Surgeons and a member of the Society of American Gastrointestinal Endoscopic Surgeons and the Clinical Robotic Surgery Association.

Rose says VCU helped prepare her for broader academic and cultural horizons.

“During my training, I was able to live in New York, Los Angeles and Biloxi, Mississippi, exposing me to much more of the world and expanding on my VCU exposure to the diversity I didn’t see growing up in rural Virginia,” she says. “I greatly appreciate the broad education I received at VCU, including but even beyond my chosen field in science, with exposure to music, history, literature and even accounting. The Honors College encouraged me to think larger than the world I had been exposed to at that point, and my entire education allowed me to open my mind to appreciate that world and those in it.”

Being held in high esteem by peers and patients, Rose says, is her most significant career accomplishment. “It’s extremely important to me to take good care of my patients and to ensure they know that and feel comfortable with me taking care of them and their loved ones.”


Faheed Saif Harhara, Ph.D

2000 Bachelor of Science
School of Engineering

The VCU School of Engineering opened in 1996 with a leap of faith and a freshman class of 100 students, including Fahad Saif Harhara, Ph.D. Since then, the school has grown in size, enrollment and reputation and Harhara embarked on an international career that inspired Arabian Business magazine to dub him “the iron man of the Middle East.”

Harhara, who also has two master’s degrees and a doctorate from other universities, is CEO of Abu Dhabi-based NIMR Automotive, the leading manufacturer of military vehicles in the Middle East and North Africa. As a dean’s list student at VCU, Harhara was one of many student workers hired to help set up the first floor of the engineering school’s C. Kenneth and Dianne Harris Wright Virginia Microelectronics Center. He returned to VCU for an emotional visit in 2016.

“To walk through the campus buildings I once paced as a young international student was overwhelming,” he says. “We were the founding class. It was a career risk taken by both the students and the school. Twenty years later, the successful outcome of that risk speaks volumes.”

Guiding him from Monroe Park to the United Arab Emirates was the advice of Hadis Morkoç, Ph.D., Founders Professor of Electrical Engineering and Physics in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering: “You will be judged by the result of your work; the effort to achieve the goal is your own self.”

Early in his career, Harhara held a number of leading positions in utilities, telecommunications and economic councils. He has led NIMR Automotive to its status as the leading manufacturer of light- and medium-weight wheeled military vehicles in the Middle East and North Africa region. During his tenure, NIMR has increased its workforce tenfold to 850 and doubled production to 80 vehicles per month.
In addition to his NIMR responsibilities, Harhara sits on the boards of numerous transport and economic committees.

“The knowledge gained at VCU was the main foundation for critical thinking,” he says. “The engineering degree was an enabler to understand nonengineering fields. In my career, I went from running a successful $300 million technology fund to establishing a tier-one military original equipment manufacturer with orders of more than $2 billion as well as running knowledge transfer projects with major industry players. The continuous challenges and the opportunity to meet the leaders of technology firms is an aspect I enjoy the most in my career. Military manufacturing is about protection and saving lives.”


Judith B. Collins, RN, WHNP, BC, FAAN

1975 Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner Certificate
School of Nursing

Judith B. Collins, RN, WHNP, BC, FAAN, charted new courses in women’s health and leadership at VCU and at the VCU School of Nursing. She earned a B.S. in nursing from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, served on the hospital ship Hope in Nicaragua and earned a master’s in nursing from Boston University before enrolling at VCU to earn a nurse practitioner certificate in women’s health.

During that time, she helped create, attend and co-direct the OB-GYN nurse practitioner program. “[It] provided me with a new nursing career path to provide care to patients and their families as a nurse practitioner,” Collins says.

Collins also became founding director of the comprehensive VCU Women’s Health Center at Stony Point, working with Leo Dunn, M.D., professor and chair emeritus of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. “This was a lifelong dream, to have a one-stop clinic for women, to empower women in their health care and health education — a wonderful capstone to my career at the university,” says Collins, also an associate professor emeritus in the schools of Nursing and Medicine.

During her VCU tenure, she took a year’s leave to become a Robert Wood Johnson Health Policy Fellow in Washington, D.C., coordinated by the Institute of Medicine. “It was an amazing year of learning, networking and developing new knowledge and skills working in Congress as well as developing lifelong personal and professional contacts,” she says. “On my return, with support of VCU’s vice president for health sciences, I developed the health policy office on the MCV Campus to help integrate the faculty into the health policy discussions and policies in the Virginia General Assembly.”

Throughout her career, Collins has held positions in nursing services, administration, education and professional organizations, including appointment by the governor to the Virginia Board of Nursing and the joint boards of Nursing and Medicine.

She retired in 2000 after more than 30 years of service to the university. In retirement, Collins, a Life member of VCU Alumni, has been an active volunteer and loyal donor to the university, including serving on the MCV Foundation board of trustees and the VCU Institute of Women’s Health. She has also served on various community, state and national boards and foundations as well as a volunteer at CrossOver Clinic and on medical mission trips to Brazil, Panama and Ghana.

In honor of her retirement, family, friends, grateful patients and colleagues established the Collins-Teefey Distinguished Professorship at the School of Nursing to honor Collins’ lifelong commitment to women’s health and leadership in the VCU School of Nursing.

“As a faculty member, I was able to teach, model and inspire the next generation of NPs and, as a clinician, care for, educate and empower women for health in their lives,” she says. “Through the journey, I have had many mentors who have encouraged my goals and dreams. I’m so thankful to the university for all my opportunities.”


Gerald M. “Jerry” Kluft, D.D.S.

1973 Doctor of Dental Surgery
School of Dentistry

The years Gerald M. “Jerry” Kluft, D.D.S., spent at VCU laid the foundation for his successful career in dentistry and for the diverse interests he has pursued since.

After receiving his Bachelor of Science in Chemistry from the University of Florida in 1969, Kluft studied at VCU and received his Doctor of Dental Surgery from the School of Dentistry in 1973. He completed a residency in periodontics at the University of Kentucky in 1975 before returning to his home state of Florida.

Kluft, who was a founding member of the American Student Dental Association and VCU’s chapter, says he learned more than the basics of dentistry during his time at the university. “Being a founding member of the SDA helped develop my leadership skills,” he says.

It also sparked an interest in participating in professional organizations as an advocate and leader.

“Becoming involved with class and national political activities guided me to more political activity in my professional life,” says Kluft, who served as president of the Florida Society of Periodontists and as a Fellow in the International College of Dentists and the Pierre Fauchard Academy.

In addition to serving his profession, he advanced it. “I helped to research and bring to commercialization two significant bone-graft products,” Kluft says. Those products are used widely today in both oral and orthopaedic applications.

His interest in business also prompted involvement both professionally and as an investor in several early stage business endeavors ranging from ophthalmology to genetic genotyping, and he continues to serve on the boards of some of those firms.

A successful periodontist in Tampa for 36 years, Kluft has consistently demonstrated his strong advocacy for the next generation of dentists. He has been a consistent supporter of the VCU School of Dentistry and is a member of the VCU Founders’ Society. He also is a member of the cabinet for the Make It Real Campaign for VCU.

Kluft was recognized as the 2006 Distinguished Alumnus by the University of Florida for his achievements in dentistry, his leadership and his community commitment. He is past president of the UF College of Dentistry Advisory Board and has co-chaired its major capital campaign.

Within his community, Kluft is a trustee of the Catholic Charities Diocese of St. Petersburg, Florida, and a former trustee of the Academy of the Holy Names as well as former chair of the AHN Foundation. He also chairs the Academy of Holy Names Foundation and is past president of the Corpus Christi School Board.

Kluft credits his time at VCU with his success in pursuing his diverse interests over the years.

“The VCU School of Dentistry helped me develop a disciplined approach to lifelong learning and the desire for continued self-improvement,” he says.


Anne M. Cooper-Chen, Ph.D.

1979 Master of Science
College of Humanities and Sciences
Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture

Anne M. Cooper-Chen began her lifelong association with journalism as editor of her class newspaper in third grade.

Years later, armed with a bachelor’s in English and Asian studies from Vassar College, Cooper-Chen launched her career in 1966 as a writer and copy editor in Tokyo. After more media work in Richmond, Virginia, and elsewhere in the U.S., she earned a master’s degree in mass communications from VCU and a Ph.D. in mass communication research from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

That’s when her focus shifted. “Since l taught newswriting while taking grad courses, the experience of teaching at VCU made me totally change my career from practitioner to professor,” Cooper-Chen says. “After 10 years of working full time as a media professional … standing back and assessing the field through grad courses was enlightening.” In particular, she says, having David Manning White, originator of the gatekeeping approach to news content, as a seminar professor “was unforgettable.”

Cooper-Chen transitioned from the media profession to academia in 1983 with stints at Southern Methodist University and Mary Baldwin College. Currently, she is professor emerita at the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University, where she has taught since 1985 and founded the Institute for International Journalism.

She spent the 1992-93 academic year as a Fulbright senior research scholar in Japan — one of only two U.S. communication researchers among 1,018 grantees. In 1998, she was a Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst (German Fulbright) visiting professor at Leipzig University, and in 2008, she was the Roy H. Park Distinguished Visiting Professor at UNC-Chapel Hill.

Throughout her career, Cooper-Chen has continued to exercise her writing muscles. She is co-author of “Idols, Victims, Pioneers: Virginia’s Women from 1607” and author of “Games in the Global Village: A 50-Nation Study of Entertainment Television,” “Mass Communication in Japan” and “Cartoon Cultures: The Globalization of Japanese Popular Media.” She also edited and authored chapters in “Global Entertainment Media” and has contributed articles to academic journals, as well as mainstream magazines and newspapers.

She has won numerous awards and honors, including top faculty papers from the international division of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication.

Cooper-Chen remains engaged with VCU as a Life member of VCU Alumni and a donor to the Robertson School’s annual fund, which opens doors for students and faculty.


Jess Judy

1977 Master of Health Administration
School of Allied Health Professions

Jess Judy refers to himself as a third-generation anomaly on VCU’s MCV Campus. Rather than follow his father and grandfather into medicine, he chose a career in which he uses his medical school “genetics” to relate to and work closely with physicians in an administrative capacity.

Judy, senior vice president of provider relations for LifePoint Health in Nashville, Tennessee, says reconnecting with his alma mater in the mid-2000s “was one of the most rewarding things I have done in my professional life and culminating in a now almost 115-year family association with the institution.”

As a graduate student in the VCU School of Allied Health Professions’ Department of Health Administration, Judy says he learned the value of teamwork and leadership by example, management styles that have marked his career.

“My professional accomplishments have been shaped by various mentors and leaders who gave me a chance to join their teams and grow into increasingly more senior and responsible roles, beginning with my first hospital CEO role at the age of 29,” he says.

After working in hospital and corporate leadership roles, Judy pursued several entrepreneurial opportunities in the ambulatory and physician services arena. In 2001, he returned to his true passion, hospital administration, serving in various capacities before accepting a division president role with LifePoint in 2006. He moved into his present role in 2008, overseeing all activities related to physician practices and engagement.

Judy has become an active alumnus, serving a three-year term on the Department of Health Administration’s Alumni Advisory Council, co-chairing the department’s Committee for Sustained Excellence and serving as an adviser to department leadership. He also is active in fundraising efforts, hosting gatherings for Tennessee and Kentucky alumni and establishing the Judy Family Student Enrichment Fund. He participates in the residency interview process and resident selection for LifePoint Health.

“Each of these activities has allowed me to give back to MCV/VCU, stay connected to the program,” Judy says. “It has also allowed me the opportunity to connect with alums from my class through more recent graduates. I have especially enjoyed working with more recent grads and serving in a mentor role.”

Judy respects the value of mentorship in academia and the business world. “I learned early on from a mentor this simple management and leadership maxim: ‘You will seldom be limited by honest mistakes of the head, but any mistake of the heart will be hard to recover from.’

“Remembering people do not care how much you know but how much you care has kept me grounded and focused on doing the right thing,” he says. “My undergrad and graduate education, coupled with a great residency and early career experiences and wonderful role models, set me up for a diverse and very rewarding career now spanning almost 48 years.”


Harvey B. Morgan

1955 Bachelor of Science
School of Pharmacy

Harvey B. Morgan’s father, a pharmacist, owned a drugstore in Gloucester, Virginia. “I never liked the store when I was growing up,” Morgan remembers. “I was the worst clerk my father ever had.”

But things changed for him after he graduated from Hampden-Sydney College in 1952. Initially thinking of studying law, he abruptly changed his mind and enrolled at the Medical College of Virginia School of Pharmacy, largely out of a sense of obligation to his father. It proved to be a wise decision.

“Every class was like a whole new world for me,” he says. His classmate teased him for regaling his dates with the latest details he’d picked up in biochemistry or some other class.

Morgan says he loved the classes but struggled. “My background in chemistry was weak, so it came hard for me,” he says.

Morgan credits the late Dean Emeritus Warren E. Weaver, Pharm.D., then a professor, with helping him get through those early courses.

“Professor Weaver was really good … tough but good. After class, I would go to his office and he would help me through the concepts. Ours was one of the best pharmacy schools in the nation, and I’m sure it’s even better today. Members of our class really supported each other, and I have always been proud of our alma mater.”

After graduation, Morgan returned to his hometown to join his father and brother in the pharmacy and quickly became involved in community activities.

As a student at MCV, Morgan had been active in student, state and national pharmacy associations. So he was ready in 1979 when asked to seek a seat in the Virginia House of Delegates. He was successful in that election, and 17 successive ones, to remain in the house for 32 years, retiring in 2012.

“I’ve never really liked politics, but I enjoyed being a representative,” he says with a smile.

Morgan served with nine governors, received numerous gubernatorial appointments and chaired multiple committees and commissions, including the Commerce and Labor Committee; the Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resource Committee and the Joint Commission on Health Care. He also served on the House Appropriations Committee and the prestigious Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission.

Morgan has received scores of leadership awards and commendations from state and national organizations in recognition of his legislative efforts and accomplishments. In 2008, VCU awarded him the Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters, the university’s highest form of recognition, and after his retirement, the Virginia Pharmacists Association Research & Education Foundation established the Harvey B. Morgan Institute of Government & Public Service, which has as its mission to encourage pharmacists to become involved in public service.


Emerson Hughes

1965 Bachelor of Music Education
School of the Arts

Emerson Hughes is proof that you can take an arts degree in many different directions and succeed in them all. Ancillary lessons learned through music-education training helped prepare him for starting a business and holding top civic leadership positions.

Performing all over Virginia in a group of 12 madrigalists at Richmond Professional Institute (a predecessor to VCU) put Hughes in front of audiences for 20 to 30 concerts a year. The four-year experience schooled him in stage presence, public presentation, relating to people and maintaining poise.

“Musicians are creative and can be wonderful leaders in the community because of their understanding of harmony and balance, whether board members or operating small businesses,” Hughes says. “Music majors listen to their surroundings and work toward solid harmony. As a musician, you had to learn how to make others successful in order for you to be successful, always a part of a chord or social structure.”

After graduation, Hughes taught vocal music at Highland Springs and Henrico high schools in Virginia, served as a church musician and performed in numerous musical productions in Richmond. In 1972, he flipped his avocation and his vocation. Music became the avocation and his love of pets became a full-time job.

Hughes and his family opened Holiday Barn Kennels, now known as Holiday Barn Pet Resorts, a venture based on his love for dogs and cats. RPI, and later VCU, was a major source of employees. “We hired [alumni] until they were able to get their music careers launched,” he says.

Holiday Barn began simply as a boarding operation in Glen Allen and Midlothian, Virginia. Its facilities and offerings grew to meet an increasing demand for luxury pet services with amenities ranging from an in-ground swimming pool for pups to cat condominiums. In 2004, Emerson turned the day-to-day operations over to his son, Michael.

Hughes and his wife, Kathy, also an RPI music graduate, have supported the VCU music department as a singer and an accompanist, respectively, and with philanthropic support throughout their lives. Their daughter, Bekah Hughes Davis, is a graduate of the department’s voice program. In addition, Hughes has served on the Essex Bank board of directors, is chairman emeritus of the Richmond SPCA, was president of the James River Opera Association and served as president of the Tappahannock Chamber of Commerce.

“Education and experience in music will lead to paths that you do not expect,” he says. “Musicians never perform alone.”

Hughes has learned that you can apply harmony to any walk of life — even a pet resort: “If there is harmony, all employees and customers will be successful.”


Robert W. Peay

1974 Master of Social Work
School of Social Work

Bob Peay experienced the despair of watching high school classmates return from the Vietnam War bearing life-changing emotional scars.

“Messed up,” says Peay who served in the Air Force during that era. “Psychological problems that impacted their families. Broken families and those who were abandoned on base.” Sadly, for the veterans of that era, he says, “there was no good counseling at that time.”

Peay also witnessed social challenges among other populations during his four years in the Air Force — his first foray into a truly integrated society. He realized that “we all want the same things in life. We have more in common than we do differences.”

After leaving the military, Peay enrolled at Virginia Union University as a social sciences student. There, he also witnessed poverty, unemployment and other social challenges facing minority groups in Richmond, Virginia. It was clear that he needed to go into social work. He never regretted it.

Peay began his career championing youth who otherwise would have fallen through the cracks in the early 1970s. At Richmond Opportunities Industrialization Center, a nonprofit designed to build job and social skills for underprivileged young adults, Peay helped junior high and high school students learn the importance of employment, job search techniques, interviewing skills and dressing professionally.

In 1978, Peay, who had earned his M.S.W. from VCU four years earlier, joined his alma mater. As a field instructor and field liaison in the School of Social Work, he received three grants to work with local elementary, middle and high school students to address issues of absenteeism, poor performance and behavioral issues. “They were vulnerable,” he says. “Structure and maturity weren’t there for them. They had socialization issues.” Using grant funds, he placed M.S.W. students in those schools to work with the children.

Peay, who also served as adviser to the Black Student Association, spent 27 years as a faculty member in the VCU School of Social Work, retiring in 2005. He was a member of numerous local and state boards, commissions and mental health agencies. Along with colleague Bob Schneider, Ph.D., he established the Social Work Administration, Planning and Policy Practice Scholarship in 2004 to support a full- or part-time M.S.W. macro concentration student.

Post-retirement, Peay ran a construction business that built affordable housing and commercial space leased to state and nonprofit agencies. He has since retired from that venture. He travels extensively, and social work is still a guiding force in his life. “You can learn so much from other cultures,” he says. “We can learn about how they handle health care, transportation and infrastructure.”

Peay credits VCU with giving him a solid academic foundation and strong social consciousness.

“I had a wonderful educational experience at VCU,” he says. “The educational program led to full-time employment as the director of youth employment programs for the city of Richmond and later as a full-time assistant professor in the School of Social Work.”

2 thoughts on “VCU Alumni’s 2017 Alumni Stars!

  1. I often met with Bob Peay when I was a student at VCU. He is a remarkable and wonderful human, teacher, and mentor. The class Racism he taught with Amy Rosenblaum was perhaps one of the best classes I had, ever.

  2. Dr. Amy Rose is my mom’s doctor, and whereas I will not share the type of surgery she had, I can tell you Dr. Rose’s passion and compassion was truly seen and felt during the process both before, during and after. I feel proud to know Dr. Rose and learn of her accomplishments.

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