Helping hand: Through scholarship, dental alumni honor staff member

Hazel Luton learns a scholarship has been established in her name.

Hazel Luton learns a scholarship has been established in her name.

From throwing pool parties and frying chicken to helping navigate licensure exams and offering professional advice, Hazel Luton would do just about anything for the dentistry students at Virginia Commonwealth University.

“Hazel was like a surrogate mother to me,” said Mark Beltrami, D.D.S. (D.D.S.’95/D), who received his D.D.S. from the VCU School of Dentistry in 1995. “She took students under her wing. There wasn’t anything she wouldn’t do to help us.”

As the School of Dentistry Class of 1995’s reunion approached, along with Luton’s milestone anniversary of 40 years with the School of Dentistry, Beltrami set the pace for his classmates and colleagues with a $10,000 lead gift to establish the Hazel Luton Scholarship.

Luton is the first staff member at the school to be honored with the creation of a scholarship. Now surpassing $45,000 in gifts and pledges, the scholarship will be awarded for the first time in fall 2017 to a rising second-year student who embodies Luton’s compassion.

“Hazel is beloved by so many. She is a parental figure as well as a supportive staff member,” said David C. Sarrett, D.M.D., dean of the VCU School of Dentistry and associate vice president for VCU Health Sciences-Faculty Affairs. “This scholarship is a testament to her many kindnesses. It will benefit generations of students who will receive financial assistance in her name.”

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Massey Cancer Center’s Research for Life campaign exceeds its fundraising goal

The School of Medicine's McGlothlin Medical Education Building, where Research for Life funds established the Massey Research Pavilion. Photo by David Hale.

The School of Medicine’s McGlothlin Medical Education Building, where Research for Life funds established the Massey Research Pavilion. Photo by David Hale.

“Research is the best hope for saving and improving lives of cancer patients. Massey has a solid foundation, but we need to broaden and deepen our research operations,” said Gordon Ginder, M.D., director of the Virginia Commonwealth University Massey Cancer Center and Lipman Chair in Oncology, at the kickoff of the public phase of the Research for Life campaign in 2013.

Research for Life, which officially started July 1, 2007, and finished June 30, 2015, raised more than $108 million, having exceeded its goal of $100 million in December 2014.

“The philanthropy of our community and region has been truly phenomenal,” said Becky Massey, who co-chaired the campaign with retired Richmond banker C.T. Hill. “We are extremely grateful to all the individuals, corporations and foundations who contributed enormously to ensuring success for this campaign.”

People, places and programs

At the outset of the Research for Life Campaign, Massey identified “people, places and programs” as its three priorities for fundraising. These areas would facilitate the swift progression of research, improving Massey’s ability to extend and save the lives of people affected by cancer.

“The ‘people’ part was about the retention and recruitment of excellent physicians and scientists,” Massey said. “The goal was to recruit up to 35 new, accomplished researchers and faculty members.”

These additions, along with the cancer center’s existing team, would be charged with maximizing its capacity to pursue groundbreaking scientific concepts, lead translational research and implement clinical trials.

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Cabell Foundation awards $1M challenge grant to bolster VCU’s new library


The new James Branch Cabell Library

The Cabell Foundation, known for its strategic and generous support throughout Richmond and Virginia, has awarded a $1 million challenge grant to VCU Libraries. Money raised will assist VCU Libraries in fully outfitting and equipping the new James Branch Cabell Library, as well as provide funding for future needs.

The grant challenges VCU Libraries to raise $1 million in new gifts and pledges by June 30, 2017. When VCU Libraries reaches that goal, the foundation will commit $1 million, bringing the total raised to $2 million for the new library. Half of the funds raised will support the New Building Fund, which will outfit and equip the new library with the kind of furnishings and equipment not provided by state funds, and will help VCU realize the full promise of this extraordinary new space for students. The other half of the funds will create a permanent Library of the Future Fund, an endowment earmarked to continually update technology in the building and to replace worn-out, broken and outdated furniture.

“The Cabell Foundation is such a tremendous friend and partner of VCU. Their visionary support over many years has forever impacted the university, and for this, we are most grateful,” said VCU President Michael Rao, Ph.D. “This challenge grant will provide support to each and every VCU student and faculty and staff member through the investment in the VCU Libraries.”

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Longtime VCU benefactor makes $16M Gift to VCU’s Center for Clinical and Translational Research

C. Kenneth and Dianne Wright

C. Kenneth and Dianne Wright

Virginia Commonwealth University announced today that longtime benefactor C. Kenneth Wright has made a $16 million gift to name the C. Kenneth and Dianne Wright Center for Clinical and Translational Research at VCU.

The gift, from Wright and the C. Kenneth and Dianne Wright Foundation, is the fifth-largest single gift in the history of the university. The gift will establish six C. Kenneth and Dianne Wright Distinguished Chairs in Clinical and Translational Research and the C. Kenneth and Dianne Wright Physician-Scientist Scholars program, named for Wright and his late wife, Dianne.

“The center is improving the lives of patients at VCU Health,” Wright said.  “I am excited about helping to put the very best faculty and students in the laboratories and clinics so new discoveries can be made and new treatments can be developed. I am very grateful for the excellent care Dianne received at VCU Health, and I know that she would be very pleased about this gift and the impact it will have across VCU.”

The endowed chairs, established with $12 million of the gift, will enable the university to recruit distinguished clinical and translational researchers from around the country. Initially, faculty whose research is focused in the Pauley Heart Center and the Massey Cancer Center will be awarded the chairs, which will be held for five years. The chairs can then be renewed or shifted to other areas of excellence in the health sciences.

The additional $4 million will launch the physician-scientist scholars program, which will help VCU prepare the best and brightest students for careers in clinical and translational research, providing tuition and stipends for M.D.-Ph.D. candidates in the VCU School of Medicine.

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Alumna, husband fund scholarship for medical students

Nader Silver, the inaugural recipient of the Dr. Rosemarie T. Greyson-Fleg and Dr. Jerome Fleg Fund Scholarship in the School of Medicine.

Nader Silver, the inaugural recipient of the Dr. Rosemarie T. Greyson-Fleg and Dr. Jerome Fleg Fund Scholarship in the School of Medicine.

Rosemarie Greyson-Fleg, M.D. (M.D.’80/M), credits the VCU School of Medicine’s three-year program with jump-starting her career as a physician.

“It was great. I was an older student, and the possibility of doing a three-year program was very attractive to me,” said Greyson-Fleg, a diagnostic radiologist in Clarksville, Maryland. “Everything worked out really well. I was very grateful that I was given that chance at VCU.”

The three-year option is no longer offered, but the school’s accelerated degree program gave Greyson-Fleg the chance to rotate into internal medicine early, where she thrived. She ultimately made the decision to specialize in radiology, giving her more time with her family.

To express her gratitude, Greyson-Fleg and her husband, Jerry, established the Dr. Rosemarie T. Greyson-Fleg and Dr. Jerome Fleg Fund in 2013 through generous gifts of stock. The scholarship is part of the School of Medicine’s 1838 Campaign to help reduce medical student debt.

“My husband and I have supported scholarships at other institutions,” Greyson-Fleg said. “Now it’s my turn to give back to VCU.”

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Pharmacy: Support the Class of 2019

white coats

In August, 140 members of the VCU School of Pharmacy Class of 2019 will take the student pharmacist oath as a symbol of officially joining the profession. Please help us support them as they make this transition.

To make your gift of $50 to buy a Class of 2019 pharmacy student’s white coat, please complete and submit the online form. You will receive an acknowledgment of your gift by email. If you have any problems or questions, email Thank you!

Startup roundup

Entrepreneurship, particularly the development and launch of a startup business, requires robust reserves of energy, smarts and guts. Virginia Commonwealth University students and alumni have demonstrated a willingness to test themselves and their ideas in this highly competitive and demanding realm, and interest in the startup world is growing at the university — as are the resources VCU and its entities are making available to students who have the drive to pursue their business plans.

A 2014 survey revealed that 51 percent of VCU students have a high or moderate interest in starting their own company. In that same survey, 15 percent said they had already started a company, had a business idea or were actively pursuing business formation. At VCU’s May commencement ceremony, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe praised VCU as “a great training ground for the real world,” while citing the university’s high number of entrepreneurial-minded students.

Eric Edwards, M.D., Ph.D., a VCU alumnus and one of the founders of kaléo, a young pharmaceutical company, said the university is a natural incubator for the startup-inclined.

“As a diverse, urban university where opportunities for mentorship, networking, creativity and entrepreneurial education are becoming increasingly a part of VCU’s DNA, it is refreshing to see the university taking a leadership role in the development of an entrepreneurial ecosystem,” Edwards said.

Here we profile five recent VCU alumni who have embraced the wide-open possibility of startups while remaining unbowed — maybe even thrilled — by their inherent uncertainty.

H&S: VCU graduate overcomes hardship, heads to Nepal

hands brian josephBrian Joseph (B.S.’15/H&S) was halfway through his junior year at Virginia Commonwealth University when tragedy struck. Fire had broken out in his family’s home in Midlothian.

“The fire started in my own room. So pretty much lost all my clothes, my bed, the TV, everything in that room. Also, we lost a lot of stuff in the hallway and we also had a lot of damage from the smoke as well,” he said.

Joseph, who was living in a dorm at the time, helped his family move into a hotel and then an apartment over the course of six months. During this same time, he also dealt with one of his close friends being hospitalized after a car accident, and another friend taking his own life. At his lowest point, he found the strength to keep going.

“A lot of people had looked up to me at that time. I had taken up a lot of leadership roles on campus. So, you know, if I was able to strengthen myself and get through this time, then I could help other people that maybe were dealing with the same problems,” Joseph said.

Things started to turn around. His family moved back into their home, his grades improved, and he graduated from VCU earlier this month.

Now Joseph hopes to set off on an 11-month, 11-country mission trip that will involve working in orphanages and helping people recover from drugs, abuse, and sex trafficking. The trip will include a visit to Nepal to help the victims of the recent earthquake. For Joseph, it’s the culmination of everything he’s been through.


Gov. McAuliffe recognizes Ram Pantry coordinator

Gov. Terry McAuliffe recognizes Ram Pantry coordinator Terrence Walker (center) for exemplary public service. Here, Walker accepts the Governor's Public Service Award for Workplace Health, Wellness and Safety as his wife Tracy (left), son Joseph and first lady Dorothy McAuliffe join him.  Photo by Michaele White, Governor’s Office.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe recognizes Ram Pantry coordinator Terrence Walker (center) for exemplary public service. Here, Walker accepts the Governor’s Public Service Award for Workplace Health, Wellness and Safety as his wife Tracy (left), son Joseph and first lady Dorothy McAuliffe join him. Photo by Michaele White, Governor’s Office.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe honored Terrence Walker, an administrative assistant at University Counseling Services, and six other state employees for exemplary service and dedication to the commonwealth of Virginia.

Walker was recognized with the Governor’s Public Service Award for Workplace Health, Wellness and Safety for his role in creating Ram Pantry, a Virginia Commonwealth University food pantry.

The pantry was created after a survey of VCU students found 57 percent of respondents were not sure each day where they would get their next meal. The results led to the launch of Ram Pantry in January 2014.

Walker worked with others to secure space and equipment and organized a group of student volunteers to staff the pantry and run it as a student organization. The pantry served more than 1,800 people in its first year of operation.

The students running Ram Pantry partner with Food Lion grocery stores and other vendors to keep the shelves stocked. Senior executives from Food Lion have been so impressed that they have asked VCU to serve as a model for universities near the company’s North Carolina headquarters.

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Education: Gold Line call reconnects alumna with alma mater, Richmond

Debbie House (M.T.’94/E) and her husband, Todd, with their children Kanna and William.

If it weren’t for a Virginia Commonwealth University Gold Line student caller asking for annual fund support, Debbie House (M.T.’94/E) might not have given her original $1,000 gift, made during the Battle for the Capital alumni giving challenge. But that phone call, combined with a love of basketball and Richmond, inspired her to reconnect with the city and the university she loves.

“I was sitting in my office one day and a student called me,” said House, who now lives in Atlanta. “It was nice to hear from VCU. I was asked for $10 a month. We started talking about basketball. It was a nice conversation.”

That phone conversation prompted her to give $1,000 to the School of Education’s master of teaching program to help prepare future leaders in education, just as she was prepared in the field at VCU. It also led her and husband, Todd, a Wake Forest alumnus, to discuss a further commitment to her alma mater.

“Todd and I are both interested in philanthropy and wanted to do something for our schools,” House said. “I wanted to do something for VCU and the city of Richmond. I have a special place in my heart for Richmond. It’s where Todd and I met and married. It’s a special place. So is VCU.”

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