RPI: A message from Gene Hunt

A message from Gene Hunt, Ph.D. (B.S.’59/B; M.S.’61/B), president of the Richmond Professional Institute Alumni Council:

Recently, I was introduced to an RPI alumna. We began talking about our experiences at RPI when I discovered that she had never seen the sculpture, titled the “Tableith.” Well, she got my usual lecture titled, “Tableith 101,” on the history and construction of the sculpture honoring the RPI years at our great university. What amazes me is the number of RPI graduates who have never seen the “Tableith” at 901 W. Franklin St. If you are one of those, make it a point of seeing the sculpture done by Charles Ponticello (M.F.A. ‘94/A), VCU graduate of the No. 1 sculpture department in the nation.

This experience reminds me of another developing project on the history of RPI. Some of you will recall that the steering committee of the RPI Alumni Council has been given two blank walls in the University Students Commons Building to develop a historic display about RPI. Committee Chair Joe Lowenthal (B.F.A.’55/A) is leading the project.

This past month, the steering committee met with a professional consultant to help us to create a display based on memories and important events. We are excited about the progress. By the end of summer, we should have good idea of what we will be displayed on these walls. We are hoping to have the project finished by next April, just in time for Alumni Month, with a reception and a dinner during the RPI Reunion Weekend. Our goal is to make this project a part of the 175th anniversary of Virginia Commonwealth University, which occurs in fall 2013.

The third effort in preserving the history of RPI is our Living History Project. Susan Nunemaker (B.S ’65/H&S; M.Ed.’68/E) is chairing this project. We will interview and videotape a number of RPI graduates. We hope to have more details on the project by the end of the summer. Perhaps we will call on you to share your favorite experiences in college.

The RPI Alumni Council is an affiliated organization of the VCU Alumni Association. If you pay your dues yearly, please consider a Life membership. If you know alumni who are not members, please discuss with them the benefits of membership. If you have questions about the RPI Alumni Council, call Diane Stout-Brown (B.S.W.’80/SW), executive director of the VCU Alumni Association, at 804-828-7020

RPI update

Have you ever heard of Oral Historian’s Anxiety Syndrome?  It is that panicky realization that irretrievable information is slipping away from us with every moment.  We have approximately 8,000 living graduates from the Richmond Professional Institute. It is a finite body.  No more can be added. As each RPI graduates dies, some culture and history dies with that graduate.  That is the bad news!

The good news is that the Steering Committee of the RPI Alumni Council is in the planning stages of conducting oral histories with RPI graduates. Oral history is the systematic collection of living people’s testimony about their own experiences at RPI.  These interviews will be done by a professional interviewer, recorded on video, and stored in the University Library. Future researchers then can analyze and synthesize this information and present what the culture and life was like at RPI.

Your help is needed. As we get into the operational stage of this oral history project, we will need volunteers to share their thoughts and comments about their life at RPI.  Interested?  We hope so.  We would like to have a significant number of interviews completed for the 175 anniversary of Virginia Commonwealth University in the year 2013.  Stay tuned!  We will announce in the near future our completed plans for this project.

RPI alumni news

There are living nearly 8,000 graduates of the Richmond Professional Institute, one of the two founding institutions of Virginia Commonwealth University. We are a finite group and as we die, part of the history and culture of RPI does as well.

The Board of Directors of VCU Alumni Association has created a subordinate group to preserve the history and culture of RPI. It is the Richmond Professional Institute Alumni Council. If you are a graduate of RPI, you already are a member of this council. A group of around 20 RPI alumni serve as the Steering Committee. The council generally meets at 2 p.m. on the third Thursday of each month at the Richard T. Robertson Alumni House

, executive director of the VCU Alumni Association, at (804)

Each year the RPI Alumni Council honors those who are celebrating their 50th anniversary with a reception on Friday evening and dinner on Saturday evening. This year on April 20-21, we will honor the 1962 graduates. All RPI graduates are invited to these events. These activities are a part of VCU Alumni Month. Look for the program in the mail.

At the dinner in April honoring the 1962 graduates, the Steering
Committee of the RPI Alumni Council will announce a new project that
will preserve the history and culture of RPI. It will be creative,
exciting, and beautiful. Join us April for this exciting announcement.

Last year, the RPI Alumni Council completed a sculpture honoring the culture and history of RPI. Located between the Ginter House and the Scott House, it reminds all of us that VCU was partially created out of RPI. It is titled the “Tableith.” There are a number of RPI graduates who have not seen it. During Alumni Month, whether you have seen the sculpture or not, take a few moments to sit on the sculpture’s benches and reflect on the wonderful times you had at RPI.

Each month we would like to share with you some thoughts or activities (past or present) from an RPI graduate. If you have an interest in sharing something with your fellow RPI alumni, please drop Diane Stout-Brown a note at dstout@vcu.edu.  This month Joe Lowenthal (B.F.A.’55/A) sent us a note. He lives in Powhatan and for many years was with the Office of Public Information for the Virginia Beach School System. Joe writes,

“I grew up at RPI: intellectually, culturally, philosophically, and just about every other way. The skills I learned there–and the friends I made there–have sustained me well for a lifetime. From the excellent hands-on education that a small college could provide to the close-knit personal relationships that developed, RPI was he right place for me.”

You can meet Joe at the RPI Alumni reception and dinner in April.

Gene Hunt. Ph.D. (B.S,’59/B; M.S.’61/B)
Gene is chair
of the RPI Alumni Council Steering Committee.