VCU Libraries secures $1 million Cabell Challenge grant

VCU Libraries has achieved a major fundraising goal by matching a $1 million challenge from the Cabell Foundation. The fundraising challenge was issued by the foundation in December 2015, and VCU Libraries exceeded the $1 million goal 90 days before the deadline.

The Cabell Foundation, a prominent Central Virginia philanthropic group, seeks to make lasting, positive impact on the Richmond region by strengthening key educational and cultural institutions and projects. The challenge grant was intended to stimulate philanthropic support of VCU Libraries as well as provide essential funds to fulfill the rich promise of VCU’s new library building on its Monroe Park Campus. The challenge was a success on both fronts: VCU Libraries exceeded the monetary goal, and expanded its community of supporters, through a record 434 gifts and pledges from alumni, faculty, staff, community members and others.

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Make It Real Campaign for VCU surpasses $500 million

The Make It Real Campaign for VCU, the largest fundraising effort in the history of Virginia Commonwealth University, has raised more than $500 million to date, the university announced Monday.

The $750 million philanthropic campaign, which began with a quiet phase in July 2012, launched publicly in September with a series of events on the Monroe Park and MCV campuses. The campaign counts all funds raised through June 30, 2020. Gifts support critical university initiatives and fuel growth in three primary areas: people, innovations and environments.

This marks a major milestone in the Make It Real Campaign for VCU,” said VCU President Michael Rao, Ph.D. “I am confident that this achievement will further catalyze our momentum because we — educators, researchers, care providers, creators, and community members and donors alike — are dedicated to the continued success of those who come to this renowned, premier public research university. I am grateful for the generosity of those who have given to VCU and invest in our mission of conquering the difficult to advance the human experience.”

The $500 million raised has established 216 new endowed scholarships and student support funds, 49 new endowed professorships and chairs, and 59 new endowed faculty support and research funds. Additionally, funds raised during the campaign have supported the Institute for Contemporary Art, the renovation of Cabell Library, the Inger Rice Lodge at the Rice Rivers Center, and a new, 154,000-square-foot facility that will centralize all 11 units in the School of Allied Health Professions under one roof.

More than 30,000 gifts have been made to VCU during the 2017 fiscal year, which ends June 30. It is the first time the university has surpassed that milestone. More than 12,000 of those gifts have been made by VCU alumni, surpassing the total number of alumni gifts made during the 2016 fiscal year. In addition, 13 schools and units are more than 60 percent of the way to their respective campaign fundraising goals.

“We are grateful to our donors who have generously supported the schools and units at VCU thus far in the campaign,” said Chris Ritrievi, senior associate vice president for campaign leadership and constituency relations. “We are also appreciative of the great work our volunteers and development staff members have done. This significant milestone represents two-thirds of our $750 million goal but we have a lot yet to accomplish. We are confident that our alumni and friends will rise to the occasion and help us meet or exceed the campaign goal by June 30, 2020.”

For more information about the campaign, visit

Flagship scholarship program established at VCU’s School of Engineering by C. Kenneth Wright

The Virginia Commonwealth University School of Engineering has received a $5 million founding gift from longtime benefactor C. Kenneth Wright to establish a scholarship fund for undergraduate students.

The Wright Engineering Access Scholarship Program will become the school’s flagship scholarship program to provide need- and merit-based awards to a broad base of students, including community college transfers. Wright’s gift is the largest scholarship gift in the school’s 21-year history.

When fully implemented, the Wright Engineering Access Scholarship will reach hundreds of students every year and provide resources to help promote a broad range of high-value opportunities in the engineering profession. The new program provides expanded resources to attract and retain the best-qualified students, regardless of financial need, and will complement existing programs to help recipients reduce or even eliminate loan indebtedness.

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Practice makes perfect

Keira Robinson.  Photos by Skip Rowland.

Keira Robinson.
Photos by Skip Rowland.

When Virginia Commonwealth University opened the 62,000-square-foot Basketball Development Center in October 2015, it was a game-changer for the men’s and women’s basketball teams in every way, providing a state-of-the-art space for everything from morning practices and weightlifting sessions to afternoon naps and team meals.

“It’s a place for these athletes to not only work on their craft but to bond as a team,” says Daniel Ludwin, who was introduced to VCU basketball in 2009 by his friend David Boardman (B.S.’91/B). After just one game, Ludwin declared himself a “rabid Ram fan.”

Ludwin and Boardman both made pledges to support the construction of the practice facility. With private donors like them funding $14.5 million of the building’s approximate $25 million cost, the Basketball Development Center was the largest private fundraising project in VCU Athletics history.

“We pride ourselves at VCU in developing student-athletes into the best versions of themselves, and our supporters make that possible,” says Ed McLaughlin, associate vice president and director of athletics. “This facility is one of the top five in the country.”

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Challenge grant aims to expand Rams in Recovery program, activities

Connor Bowie, intern with Rams in Recovery, and Tom Bannard, program coordinator, in the clubhouse space.

Connor Bowie, intern with Rams in Recovery, and Tom Bannard, program coordinator, in the clubhouse space.

A $15,000 matching challenge grant will help Rams in Recovery, Virginia Commonwealth University’s collegiate recovery program, support students in achieving academic success while focusing on wellness.

The challenge, issued by JHW Foundation Inc., will match all new gifts donated to Rams in Recovery dollar-for-dollar, up to $15,000, until June 30, 2017.

The purpose of the challenge is to spread the message of collegiate recovery through Rams in Recovery while building a base of support from new donors, said Roz Watkins, chair of the JHW Foundation, which raises awareness about substance abuse and addiction in young people and supports young adults in recovery.

Watkins and her husband, John, lost their son, Henry, to an accidental overdose six years ago.

“Our son was in college and one of the challenges he would face is he would get sober and go back to college and there was no support network in place,” Watkins said. “We thought that was an important place to target.”

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VCU Broad Street Mile returns for 4th annual event


Virginia Commonwealth University returns as the signature sponsor of the VCU Broad Street Mile. The event will allow participants to enjoy a free festival, compete in a series of 1-mile fun runs or a 5K, and raise money for local organizations. The fourth annual event will take place on Broad Street between Belvidere Street and Hermitage Road on Saturday, Sept. 24, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The VCU Broad Street Mile will offer an opportunity to support VCU and many other community organizations in the Richmond area. And this year’s event is part of the launch of the Make It Real Campaign for VCU, a comprehensive fundraising campaign to support students and faculty, spark creative partnerships and expand the university’s research capacity by providing world-class facilities, equipment and materials.

“With VCU’s upcoming comprehensive campaign, we are focusing on faculty, staff and alumni engagement paired with community involvement,” said Chris Ritrievi, senior associate vice president for campaign leadership and constituency relations at VCU. “VCU’s continued engagement with Richmond is pivotal to the campaign’s success and the success of the Broad Street Mile.”

The VCU Broad Street Mile provides a unique opportunity for people of all ages and fitness levels. Athletes ranging from novice to elite can choose to run or walk the 5K or one of the 1-mile fun runs. Each of the fun runs has different themes, including the Spirit of Giving Mile, Kids Mile, No Limits Mile and Doggy Dash. In an effort to expand the community impact, this year’s event will not require participating organizations to have a 501(c)3 designation.

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Faculty, staff and retiree giving campaign raises $138,000

Men's basketball coach Will Wade.

Men’s basketball coach Will Wade.

Faculty, staff and retirees donated more than $138,000 to Virginia Commonwealth University during a six-week employee giving campaign this spring, the university announced Friday.

The campaign, which ran April 4, 2016, to May 15, 2016, encouraged VCU and VCU Health employees — and retirees — to make individual donations to the university.

“I think it went well,” said Thomas C. Burke (B.S.’79/E;M.P.A.’95/H&S), executive director of the VCU Foundation. “We had excellent work from our leadership and internal committees, which really laid the groundwork for a successful effort.”

Employees and retirees made donations — via payroll deduction or as one-time gifts — to scholarships and programs across the university. In total, 171 donors made gifts via payroll deduction during the six-week campaign to the fund of their choice. As of May 15, 1,450 faculty, staff and retirees have donated $1.37 million to the university this fiscal year.

Participation was the goal, Burke said in April when the campaign launched.

“It shows our family supports efforts at VCU,” he said. “It demonstrates the type of internal support we have.”

Donor participation was widespread, covering administrative and academic offices. The School of Nursing had nearly 90 percent participation, Burke said. The Department of Intercollegiate Athletics had 100 percent participation during the campaign, unlocking a $25,000 challenge gift from the Ram Athletic Fund advisory board.

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Poetic justice: Friends and colleagues honor professor’s legacy with scholarship

Claudia Emerson. Photo by Kent Ippolito.

Claudia Emerson. Photo by Kent Ippolito.

Pulitzer Prize winner for poetry in 2006. Poet Laureate of Virginia 2008–2010. Passionate professor.

Though Claudia Emerson came late to the world of poetry, she embraced the genre and said in a PBS interview shortly after winning the Pulitzer that she processed the world through poetry.

Almost immediately after her death from colon cancer in December 2014, friends and colleagues at Virginia Commonwealth University, where she was a creative writing professor in the English department of the College of Humanities and Sciences, established the Claudia Emerson Scholarship to celebrate her life and her dedication to her students.

The scholarship assists students by providing access to enrichment opportunities such as conferences and workshops. The scholarship monies also help increase the stipends available for graduate teaching assistants.

Emerson was at VCU for a short time only, arriving in summer 2013. But the impression she made has been etched for a lifetime.

“I worked with Claudia during my second year,” said Christie Maurer, now a third-year graduate student pursuing an M.F.A. in poetry. “We would get coffee, and she’d invite students to her home for workshops. She was amazing.”

Awarded to undergraduate and graduate students in the poetry or creative nonfiction program in the department, the Claudia Emerson Scholarship has already benefited five students as they hone their craft. Maurer is one.

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Tragedy leads to celebration of life at Theatre VCU


Jett Higham

In just a 10-minute walk covering no more than three blocks in the Richmond neighborhood of Jackson Ward in July 2013, 18-year-old Jett Higham was gone − fatally shot during what police called a “robbery gone bad,” according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Toni-Leslie James

Toni-Leslie James

“It’s a reality I hope no one has to go through – losing a child to such senseless violence,” said Higham’s mother, Toni-Leslie James, director of costume design and associate professor at Virginia Commonwealth University’s Department of Theatre in the School of the Arts.

“Jett was such an amazing, vibrant, beautiful kid,” James said. “We just have to continue on. I can understand how this type of tragedy can totally destroy a family. It’s been our mission to keep our family intact and to try to love and learn and laugh and continue on.”

Struggling with the enormity of the crime and looking for a way to support James in its aftermath, faculty, staff and friends at Theatre VCU rallied to create the Jett Higham Costume Design/Technology Scholarship to celebrate his life and to help talented students.

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VCU squares off against UR in fourth annual Battle for the Capital


Perhaps, as fans, we have less influence than we would like over the outcome of the on-court encounters between Virginia Commonwealth University and the University of Richmond. However, when the two basketball teams meet again at 7 p.m. on Feb. 19 at the Stuart C. Siegel Center, there is one way to put the friendly rivalry and competitive spirit to good use.

Battle for the Capital, an annual giving challenge pitting the alumni of the two universities against each other, runs this year Feb. 12-19.

The idea behind the battle is that each university scores a point every time it receives an online or credit card donation ($5 minimum) from its alumni. The winning university is the one with the most points at the end of battle week. Points are tallied only during the week that leads up to this season’s Atlantic 10 matchup on the court between the Rams and the Spiders.

A win this year would make a hat trick for VCU, which has won the past two of the three years the challenge has previously run.

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