Organization co-founded by VCU student teaching chess, patience to Richmond youth

Legacy Chess Academy serves youth in Richmond and is aiming to serve more schools and organizations in the surrounding region.

In a Henderson Middle School classroom, dozens of Richmond children between the ages of 12 and 14 are paired off, each huddled over chess boards and playing intensely.

“Chess helps me think,” says Avery White, 12, a student at Falling Creek Middle School. “It’s a very patient game. It helps you think a few steps forward because if you make a wrong move, your opponent can get an advantage on you.”

The students were participating in a chess program run by Legacy Chess Academy — an organization co-founded by Virginia Commonwealth University senior Corey Hancock — and offered as part of the Richmond Police Athletic League’s summer program for Richmond youth.

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James Curtis Hall, VCU School of Business’ first dean, passes away at 91

James Curtis Hall spent 26 years as the founding dean of the VCU School of Business, growing enrollment at the school from 400 to more than 4,500 students.

For those who knew him, the most enduring professional legacy of James Curtis Hall, who passed away this week at age 91, is the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Business.

In 1967, Hall became the school’s first-ever dean when the Medical College of Virginia and the Richmond Professional Institute merged to form VCU. He spent 26 years in the role, before retiring to return to teaching. During his tenure, the school’s enrollment grew from 400 to more than 4,500.

“Dr. Curtis Hall made a major impact on VCU and Richmond by serving as founding dean of the VCU School of Business, leading the school for 26 years, and establishing the comprehensive, doctoral-granting, accredited institution that we are today,” said Kenneth B. Kahn, Ph.D., interim dean of the School of Business. “His record of scholarship, teaching and leadership is exemplary. We mourn his loss and strive to carry on his legacy.”

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How I got the job: After missing out on an internship, business grad’s persistence helps her land a job at Altria

Brianna Earl is an associate compensation analyst in the department of human resources at Altria.

Brianna Earl (B.S.’17/B) attended an internship fair at the beginning of her freshman year at Virginia Commonwealth University. She met representatives from several companies, including Altria, the tobacco and wine giant and one of Richmond’s largest employers.

“I knew that I wasn’t really qualified yet for any position but I wanted to get a feel for the internship environment at VCU,” Earl said. “When I met [with Altria] I noticed how happy their employees seemed. I wanted to do some more research into the company.”

That first meeting, nearly four years ago, put Earl on a path to her first job. Today, the School of Business graduate is an associate compensation analyst in the department of human resources at Altria, a position that — among other things — is allowing her to learn about how the company operates.

“I love it,” said Earl, who just finished her second month on the job. “I’m able to see what goes on within the company, even if it’s not related to my position. It’s a lot of great early exposure and it’s setting the foundation for me to see what I want to move into further on in my career.”

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New book co-written by VCU English professors tells the story of Japanese scientist’s unexpected path to the Nobel Prize

Osamu Shimomura received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2008 for his discovery and development of Green Fluorescent Protein, which has become an important tool for studying the biological process in cells.

A new book co-written by Virginia Commonwealth University professors Sachi Shimomura, Ph.D., and John Brinegar, Ph.D., along with Shimomura’s father, Osamu Shimomura, Ph.D., tells the life story of the elder Shimomura, from his time growing up in wartime Japan and his eyewitness account of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki to his postwar research into jellyfish bioluminescence that ultimately earned him the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2008.

The book, “Luminous Pursuit: Jellyfish, GFP, and the Unforeseen Path to the Nobel Prize” (World Scientific 2017), narrates the life and scientific career of Osamu Shimomura, detailing his travels around the world to collect and research more than 15 bioluminescent species. He received the Nobel Prize for the discovery and development of Green Fluorescent Protein — which has become an important tool for studying the biological process in cells — as he was the first person to isolate GFP and the protein aequorin from the jellyfish Aequorea victoria in the early 1960s.

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Humility, hunger pave alumnus’ way to new Netflix series

VCU graduate Jason Butler Harner in “Ozark.” (Photo courtesy of Netflix)

More than three decades later, Jason Butler Harner (B.F.A.’92/A) still remembers a few things he learned in Mrs. Rubin’s fourth-grade class at Lemon Road Elementary School.

He learned how to play mahjong, which he still plays on airplane flights to this day.

He learned a lot about Christmas pageants, and appreciates the irony considering his teacher was Jewish.

And he learned that he loves performing.

“We had to do book reports in her class where we dressed like the character and then reported on the book,” Harner recalled. “And I was, and I still am, a huge procrastinator — a lot of creative people are. And I had only half-read the book. So I dressed up as the guy from the book and got really nervous presenting in front of the class.

“And then discovered that I kind of liked it.”

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Up in the air with ASPiRE graduate Georgia Cipriani

By Anthony Langley (B.S.’16/MC)

Georgia Cipriani (B.S.’16/H&S), a flight attendant for American Airlines, spends a lot of time flying between Richmond, Virginia, and Washington, D.C., but her job also sends her to many new and exciting places around the world. She’ll be taking over the VCU Alumni Instagram account next week giving us a glimpse into her travels.

What was your time at VCU like?

I fell in love with VCU from my first visit. There are so many amazing moments that I wish I could go back in time and relive. I loved being an RA, had great professors, loved being a part of my sorority and graduated from the ASPiRE program!

I also had the chance to study abroad in Perugia, Italy. Not only did I learn a lot of Italian, but I had a blast and met so many new people who I still talk to today. Having the opportunity to study abroad got me out of my comfort zone and I honestly still benefit from that experience to this day. When you’re introduced to a new lifestyle, it lets you learn a lot about yourself.

On top of it all, the study abroad office at VCU was so helpful whenever I had any questions; it really gave me peace of mind.

How has VCU tied into your career path?

My aunt is a child psychologist, and she’s always been a major role model and influence in my life. She sparked my interest in studying psychology early on, so when I got to VCU I knew exactly what I wanted to study, and I plan on continuing my education and eventually getting my master’s.

While you don’t need a specific major to become a flight attendant, I think VCU gave me all the right tools I need to excel at it. I believe the airline industry is one of the most diverse industries to work in, not only because we fly all over the world but also because our passengers are from everywhere around the globe.

VCU’s diversity got me accustomed to being surrounded by people from different cultural backgrounds, and now I can’t think about ever working in an environment that doesn’t offer that.

What is the day-to-day like working for an airline?

As a flight attendant, you have to give up all expectations of a “typical day” or routine. You may think you are going to Los Angeles and end up in Tulsa, Oklahoma; there are no promises ever. My bag always has an umbrella, a bathing suit and a jacket because I can never be too sure of where I’m headed, so I wake up every morning ready for anything!

Where has been your favorite travel destination?

Since working for American, I’ve been able to travel all over the U.S. and a ton of countries in Europe. My favorite place has to be Italy because that’s where I was born and where half of my family is from. I also absolutely loved Copenhagen, Denmark, and cannot wait to go back.

The right moves: How alumnus Cameron Quayle learned the importance of planning ahead

By Anthony Langley (B.S.’16/MC)

“When I think about it, it’s the combination of science, arts and interacting with people that made dentistry the perfect fit for me,” Cameron Quayle, D.D.S. (D.D.S.’04/D) says.

Quayle, who grew up in Ogden, Utah, was recruited by nearby Weber State University to play college football though the sport was more of a diversion for him than a potential career. In high school, he decided to go into dentistry, and in the classroom, that’s where he focused his attention. At Weber, his junior year on the football field was a standout year and scouts started showing up to see him in practices and in games, but he never intended to play professionally.

Instead, he focused his efforts on applying to dental schools. Knowing the reputation that Virginia Commonwealth University had among Weber graduates who had attended the school, he knew that it would be a great fit for him.

While he was still making the final decision on which dental school to attend, he received correspondence from Marshall Brownstein, D.D.S., former admissions dean at the VCU School of Dentistry, with more information about the university and the D.D.S. program. That solidified Quayle’s choice.

“I was just some kid halfway across the country applying to dental school,” Quayle says. “Dr. Brownstein got to know me at a personal level, and that made a difference for me.”

He was accepted into VCU’s dental program, but five months before graduating from Weber with a bachelor’s in integrative studies focusing on chemistry, zoology and marketing, Quayle received news that the Baltimore Ravens wanted to recruit him. He deferred his acceptance to VCU to play in the NFL.

“When the opportunity to play professionally fell into my lap, I just sort of jumped at the chance,” he says. “I always figured I’d run a small business, but life threw me a curveball, and I went with it.”

After a year with the Ravens, Quayle was drafted by the Barcelona Dragons of NFL Europe and played for one year before returning to the U.S. to play for the Jacksonville Jaguars. He injured his neck while playing for the Jaguars and that’s when he decided to hang up his cleats and go back to school.

“[Football] was good detour away from normal life for a few years,” he says. “When it all ended, I was luckily able to pick up right where I left off and came to Richmond.”

Back to Plan A

At VCU, Quayle specialized in pediatric dentistry and spent time as class president. What he loved the most about his education at VCU were the clinical hours he logged with the faculty and staff at the School of Dentistry.

“I got to know so many of the people within the [School of Dentistry] that it was difficult emotionally for me when I had to leave,” Quayle says. “On one hand I was excited to go on and complete my residency, but it was difficult to leave the people and friends that I made there.”

Quayle graduated magna cum laude from VCU in 2004 with a Doctor of Dental Surgery and returned to his home state of Utah to complete his residency at the Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City. Today, Quayle oversees sedation training for pediatric dental residents at the hospital and runs his own practice in nearby Pleasant View, Mountain View Pediatric Dentistry, dubbed locally as the “Moose Dentist” because of the practice’s memorable smiling moose logo.

“When I was doing research on logos, I asked friends and family their opinions on some options we were thinking about,” Quayle says. “Whether they liked it the best or not, they would always mention how funny the moose with the big, sparkling white smile was. So we ran with it.”

The practice’s mascot, Mason the Moose, is now an integral part of the Mountain View team and attends school assemblies and other community events as part of the bigger goal to treat each patient as they would treat their children, with patience, compassion and understanding.

“I’ll get down on my knees, just to make myself a little bit shorter, and explain to [our patients] what’s going on and that they’ll be OK,” he says. “I’m their coach, and I’m going to get them through it. Every high five I get on the way out of the office keeps me going, day in and day out.”

Sharing lessons learned

While playing in the NFL was a detour from his intended path, Quayle knows that without having the foresight to pursue his degree, things could have turned out differently. Through a partnership with his former junior high school, Highland Junior High School in Ogden, he’s helping teach students the importance of having options.

“One day this teacher walks in with her two kids, and I instantly recognized her as one of my first junior high school teachers,” Quayle says. “She was teaching a career prep course at the time and wanted to see if I’d come and talk to the seventh-graders about my career path.”

What started as a one-time talk turned into a yearly engagement, and when his former teacher retired, school staff members worked with Quayle to turn it into a project for the entire seventh grade.

“It means a lot more [to the students] to hear from someone who’s been there, than it does from their teachers,” said Feliciana Lopez, a seventh-grade English teacher at Highland Junior High School, who was interviewed by local news station KSL 5 for a story they aired about Quayle and the contest.

Students write an essay about the careers they hope to have when they grow up, and they include a backup plan in case they, too, detour from their goal.

“It’s interesting. I want to say 70 percent of the kids want to be professional athletes when they grow up,” Quayle says. “I tell them to shoot for it, but just in case, have your fallback plan ready.”

The now annual writing contest promises the winner a gift basket from his practice and a $100 Visa gift card.

“I’ve heard from teachers that the students really get into it,” he says. “For a grownup, $100 isn’t all that much, but when you tell a seventh-grader that they have a chance at it? It gets them motivated.”

Fraternity scholarship extends an engineering student’s legacy

Dillon Hensley, who received his physics degree in May and plans to pursue an M.S. in the subject at VCU, is the first recipient of Triangle Fraternity’s Chris Ducic Scholarship.

Dillon Hensley (B.S.’17/H&S) completed his bachelor of science in physics with help from a program named for an outstanding engineering student: the Chris Ducic Scholarship. Hensley is the first recipient of this award, which was established by VCU’s Triangle Fraternity, a social fraternity for science, engineering and architecture students. The scholarship is named for Chris Ducic (B.S.’16/E), an academic standout in the Department of Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering and founding member of Triangle who died during his senior year in 2015.

“The best way to remember Chris is by remembering his work ethic and intellect. He had a big personality — that’s for sure — but also a very strong intellect. A scholarship named after him keeps that idea front and center,” said Zachary Cullingsworth, a graduate student in mechanical and nuclear engineering and Triangle member.

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Painting the Town Fashion

Sometimes the best way to tell a story is with a picture.

Students in the Department of Fashion Design and Merchandising have painted a mural on the side of the former Urban Farmhouse building, on the corner of Broad and Gilmer streets. The mural shows three women dressed in stylish denim outfits. This is the second mural painted in Richmond under the guidance of Patricia Brown, chair of the fashion department. Brown’s concept for the murals is to “Paint the Town Fashion.”

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Warren Brandt, VCU’s president in a time of transition and turmoil, dies at 93

Warren Brandt. Image courtesy of Special Collections and Archives, VCU Libraries.

Warren Brandt, the first president of Virginia Commonwealth University, died this week at the age of 93. Brandt served as university president from June 1969 through October 1974 after Richmond Professional Institute and the Medical College of Virginia merged to form VCU. He presided over a period of rapid growth and steep operational challenges associated with the charge to unite two distinct institutions with their own administrations, facilities, processes and traditions.

Eugene Trani, Ph.D., who served as president of VCU from 1990 to 2009, said at the 2005 dedication of Brandt Hall, a 17-story dormitory named to honor Brandt’s critical role in the history of the university, that Brandt deftly managed the difficult transition.

“As with any change of that magnitude, there were many pressing issues to handle, from setting up a new governance system to addressing budgetary issues to dealing with faculty concerns — including considerable resistance to the merger on the part of some faculty,” said Trani, now a president emeritus and university distinguished professor. “Dr. Brandt skillfully combined his knowledge and abilities as a researcher, professor and administrator to successfully lead Virginia Commonwealth University as its first president from 1969 to 1974. He set the stage and created a strong foundation for the tremendous growth that we have experienced since his time here.”

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