‘Fall Line’ bench in Cabell Library lobby evokes Richmond’s stretch of James River

“Fall Line,” a wood sculpture and functional bench, echoing the 7-mile stretch of the James River, was installed in James Branch Cabell Library over spring break.

A wood sculpture — and functional bench — that evokes the 7-mile section of the James River that runs through Richmond has been installed in the entranceway of Virginia Commonwealth University’s recently expanded James Branch Cabell Library.

The sculpture, titled “Fall Line,” was created by Heath Matysek-Snyder (B.F.A.’00/A), an assistant professor in the Department of Craft/Material Studies and lead professor of the wood area in the School of the Arts, who has been working on the piece in his Scott’s Addition studio for more than two years.

“My hope is that when people walk into Cabell Library, they’ll recognize it as the James River, which I find to be an amazing element of Richmond, a really amazing feature of the city,” Matysek-Snyder said. “This will be an object that greets you. It will be a place to meet. And it will be a feature that says goodbye as you walk back out.”

The 27-foot-long white oak bench mimics the contours of the James River from Pony Pasture to the 14th Street Bridge, with aluminum on top of the bench representing the outline of the river, including Belle Isle. The bench is broken into four sections, with each of the three negative spaces representing a different iconic Richmond bridge, also rendered in aluminum, and allowing pedestrians to walk through.

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VCU Libraries celebrates addition of 3 millionth volume to its collection

“Rehabilitation After Traumatic Brain Injury,” by Blessen C. Eapen and David X. Cifu, chair of VCU’s Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, will be the 3 millionth addition to VCU Libraries’ collections.

VCU Libraries will celebrate the 3 millionth addition to its library collections with a trio of events and selections over the next two months. Three items have been identified for the celebration: an oral history collection featuring second-wave feminists in central Virginia (2,999,999th volume); a seminal new book about treatment of traumatic brain injury, co-authored by David X. Cifu, M.D., chair of VCU’s Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (3 millionth volume); and an art pop-up book by VCU alumna Colette Fu (3,000,001st volume).

The celebration of the 3 millionth volume coincides with VCU Libraries’ emergence as one of the leading research libraries in the country. Representing the maturity and depth of its collections, these acquisitions coincide with VCU Libraries’ inaugural year as a member of the Association of Research Libraries (joining the University of Virginia and Virginia Tech as the only ARL institutions in Virginia). The celebration also falls on the 50th anniversary of the creation of Virginia Commonwealth University, the 120th anniversary of the founding of Tompkins-McCaw Library for the Health Sciences, and the recognition of VCU Libraries with the prestigious 2018 Association of College and Research Libraries Excellence in Academic Libraries Award.

“These three items represent the diversity and breadth of our collections and demonstrate the libraries’ commitment to advancing research, scholarship and creative expression throughout the university,” said University Librarian John E. Ulmschneider. “They highlight the key role that Tompkins-McCaw Library plays in patient care and research at VCU, demonstrate how books in academic libraries are evolving, and showcase how VCU Libraries engages in scholarship and collaborations to make rare and unique materials available globally.”

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VCU Libraries receives Excellence in Academic Libraries Award

Staff from VCU Libraries pose for a photo in the lobby at James Branch Cabell Library.

VCU Libraries is one of three recipients of the 2018 Excellence in Academic Libraries Award, an annual honor recognizing staff at college, university and community college libraries for providing exemplary programs, resources and services.

The award is sponsored by the Association of College and Research Libraries and GOBI Library Solutions from EBSCO. VCU Libraries was recognized alongside the Max R. Traurig Library at Naugatuck Valley Community College and the Milne Library at the State University of New York at Geneseo.

Each library will receive $3,000 and a plaque, to be presented at an award ceremony held on each institution’s campus.

VCU Libraries was the winning library in the university category and was selected for its services, initiatives and role within the campus community, said Ann Campion Riley, chair of the 2018 Excellence in Academic Libraries Committee and vice provost and university librarian at the University of Missouri.

Among VCU’s initiatives is the Scholarly Communications and Publishing Division, which supports VCU faculty, staff and students in disseminating open scholarship. Its programs include the Open Access Author Publishing Fund to encourage publishing in open access journals; the “Mapping the KKK” digital humanities visualization project, in collaboration with VCU’s history department; and the “Social Welfare History Project,” a national online portal documenting the social welfare movement’s impact on the United States.

“We are deeply honored by this distinguished recognition from ACRL,” said John E. Ulmschneider, university librarian. “The faculty and staff of the VCU Libraries have worked with creativity, passion and immense dedication to create an exemplary research library for the 21st century and to fulfill our mission of transforming our communities through our teaching, collections and scholarship.”

Virus detective: VCU alumnus stands at the forefront of flu research

Emergency hospital during 1918 influenza epidemic, Camp Funston, Kansas
Courtesy of the National Museum of Health and Medicine, Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, Washington, D.C., Image NCP 1603

By Julie Young

A pioneering virologist with medical and doctoral degrees from the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine has unlocked secrets to a deadly flu virus through plots and twists befitting an Indiana Jones movie.

Jeffery Taubenberger, M.D., Ph.D.

As a med student in the mid-1980s, Jeffery Taubenberger, M.D., Ph.D. (M.D.’86/M; Ph.D.’87/M) couldn’t have imagined that his chief interest, basic immunology, would catapult him into scientific stardom.

The 1918 Spanish flu epidemic that killed more than 40 million people worldwide was barely a blip in his medical education but turned into a hobby and eventually his life work. Today, Taubenberger serves as deputy chief of the laboratory of infectious diseases at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. He’ll be at VCU Monday, Feb. 19, for a special VCU Libraries lecture, “On the Centenary of the 1918 Flu: Remembering the Past and Planning for the Future.”

The flu pandemic that fascinated Taubenberger led him to crack the 1918 strain’s genetic code and discover why it was so deadly. Mapping the genome unlocked the secret to pathogens responsible for the Spanish virus and revealed key behaviors of strains such as this year’s widespread flu.

After graduation in 1987, Taubenberger completed a pathology residency and worked as a staff pathologist at the National Cancer Institute. In 1993, he joined the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology in Rockville, Maryland.

“I set up a new group to use what, at that time in the early ’90s, was really kind of very cutting-edge, ‘Star Trek’-type medicine,” Taubenberger says. The strategy was to use molecular biology tools and new information about DNA mutations to diagnose diseases. “Traditionally, you make a diagnosis by looking at tissues under the microscope,” he says.

Taubenberger and his team worked in a Washington, D.C., building that housed the largest archive of pathology material in the world, which sparked his memory of that passing reference at VCU to the 1918 flu. “I was thinking that if we could find material from people who died of the 1918 flu, perhaps we could apply molecular biology tools to learn something about this huge, really virulent influenza virus,” he says.

After years of painstaking research, the team identified one positive flu case from a soldier who died in South Carolina in 1918. “We had a little tiny bit of lung tissue from that soldier’s autopsy, about the size of a fingernail,” Taubenberger says. It was enough to generate a partial sequence of the virus. The breakthrough was reported in 1997 in the journal Science.

Across the country in San Francisco, a freewheeling adventurer and retired pathologist named Johan Hultin read the Science article and wrote to Taubenberger. Hultin had traveled to Alaska’s Seaward Peninsula twice in the 1950s to extract DNA from flu victims under the permafrost in the village of Brevig Mission. He had tried unsuccessfully to culture the virus.

Hultin told Taubenberger that he could unearth larger samples of the virus. Using $3,200 of his savings, Hultin returned to the Seward Peninsula, where he exhumed and autopsied a flu victim nicknamed “Lucy.” He shipped her lung tissue to Taubenberger’s lab. The material tested positive for the virus.

Taubenberger used Lucy’s tissue and fragments from autopsies of other victims worldwide to sequence the entire genome of the virus. Using molecular biology techniques, a multi-institutional project was able to produce infectious copies of the deadly virus by 2005. Virologists hailed it as a lifesaving discovery, the largest-ever breakthrough in flu research.

“We’ve learned a lot,” Taubenberger says. “The concern that I have is that something like this could happen again. We would hope, obviously, that it never would, but we are concerned; therefore, what could we do to try to prevent that?”

Vaccination is the answer, he adds. But flu shots have proven to be only partially effective because “influenza is never standing still,” Taubenberger says. That’s what makes flu such a frustrating public health challenge.

“The reason the vaccine has to be remade every year is to try to keep up with this really rapid mutation of the virus,” he says. “It would be bad enough if it were just a human virus, but influenza viruses are present in hundreds of species of animals, including wild birds, domestic birds, pigs … and they have the ability to jump from one species to another.”

In recent years, his lab has pushed to develop a universal flu vaccine that would protect against all strains.

“This is a pretty tall order, but our hope is to develop a vaccine that would prevent the serious complications of influenza so that if you were exposed to a virus like 1918, perhaps you would feel ill for a couple of days but you would not develop pneumonia or need to be hospitalized. That’s the goal we would like to pursue,” Taubenberger says. “And having worked on the 1918 virus has really given us insights into how we could perhaps do that. We hope to have some of our initial candidate vaccines in clinical trials by next year, so we’re excited about that.”

Sanger Series: Going Viral with Jeffery Taubenberger, M.D., Ph.D.
“On the Centenary of the 1918 Flu: Remembering the Past and Planning for the Future”

Monday, Feb. 19
5-7 p.m.
Hermes A. Kontos Medical Sciences Building Auditorium, 1217 E. Marshall St.
Reception to follow

The lecture is free and open to the public, but registration is required.

Catch all the A-10 action in D.C.

Mark your calendars for March 7-11 as the VCU Rams travel north to Washington, D.C., for the 2018 A-10 Men’s Basketball Tournament.

Join VCU Alumni and the VCU community for a host of exciting tournament activities! Need help getting around D.C.? Plan your Metro trip online.

Total Internship Management Workshop

VCU Career Services presents the Total Internship Management Workshop with Mason Gates, founder and chief careers officer with ThincCareers.com/ThincInterns.com. This workshop will prepare organizations of all sizes to build successful internship programs from scratch. Participants will leave the event with a new-found approach to internship development, implementation and management. Learn more.

When: 8:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 6
Where: Renaissance Hotel, 999 Ninth St. NW, Washington, DC 2000

Learn more and register online. Questions? Email Danielle Pearles, associate director of employer and experiential development, VCU Career Services.

Alumni reception

VCU Alumni hosts a cocktail reception for all alumni and Ram fans.

When: 7-9 p.m. Wednesday, March 7
Where: Ronald Reagan International Trade Center, Amphitheater Foyer, 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20004. The trade center is a 5-minute walk from the Federal Triangle Metro stop on the Blue, Orange and Silver Metro lines. It can also be accessed via the Metro Center Station stop on the Red line.
Dress: Business casual

Registration is closed for this event.

A-10 kickoff social

Join VCU Alumni’s RVA GOLD, DMV GOLD and NYC chapters for a tournament pregame kickoff. All VCU alumni, family and friends are invited. There will be special giveaways for Rowdy Ram fans.

When: 10 a.m. Thursday, March 8
Where: Lucky Strike, 701 Seventh St. NW, Washington, DC 20001. If you’re coming by Metro, get off at the Gallery Place-Chinatown stop or park in the Gallery Place Parking Garage. Lucky Strike is located on the second floor of Gallery Place. Walk down the alleyway next to Clyde’s to access the lobby.  
Cost: Free. Food and beverages available for purchase.
RSVP: On Facebook

Questions? Email RVA GOLD Chapter leader Timmy Nguyen (B.S.’11/B).

Pregame socials

Meet at Penn Social before every VCU game to rally with Ram fans.

When: Before every VCU game
Where: Penn Social, 801 E St. NW, Washington, DC 20004. Penn Social is a three-minute walk from the Gallery Place-Chinatown Metro Station (Green or Red line) and an 8-minute walk from Metro Center Station (Blue, Orange or Green line).

Folger Shakespeare Library tour

Join VCU Libraries for a special tour of the Folger Shakespeare Library. Check out collections from comic books to Shakespeare holdings. Space is limited so register early.

When: 10 a.m. Friday, March 9
Where: Folger Shakespeare Library, 201 E. Capitol St., SE Washington, DC 20003. The library is an 8-minute walk from the Capitol South Metro Station (Blue, Orange or Silver line).

To register or for questions, email Kelly Gotschalk (B.F.A.’90/A; M.A.’97/A), director of development and major gifts, VCU Libraries.

ICA museum tours

Join the Institute for Contemporary Art at VCU for guided tours of two D.C. museums.

The Phillips Collection
When: 10 a.m. Friday, March 9

Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
When: 10 a.m. Saturday, March 10

To register, email Rachel Southard (M.B.A.’17/B), donor relations associate for the ICA, or call (804) 827-0563.

Greek Alumni Network lecture

Join VCU Alumni’s Greek Alumni Network for “Better Connections: Insights on Connecting With Today’s Recent Greek Alumni.” Guest speaker Amy Riccardi is a human capital and business strategist, an author, a CEO adviser, an employee engagement specialist and an entrepreneur. She is a frequent guest lecturer at both Georgetown and George Washington universities on change management issues and a frequent speaker on the workplace of the future and girl’s/women’s leadership issues. If you have a specific question or topic you would like Riccardi to address, email it to network President Kevin Taylor (B.F.A.’88/A).

When: 10-11:30 a.m. Saturday, March 10 (doors open at 9:30 a.m.)
Where: George Washington University, Marvin Center
Cost: $10, includes a light breakfast
Register: RSVP by noon Friday, March 9

For questions, email Larry Powell (B.S.’85/H&S), assistant director of alumni outreach and engagement.

VCU Alumni pep rally

Join the VCU Peppas and VCU Alumni on the National Mall for a rousing pep rally.

When: Saturday March 10 (time determined by game time)
Where: National Mall on the corner of Madison Street and Seventh Avenue (in front of the National Air and Space Museum and the National Gallery of Art). The event is a 10-minute walk from the National Archives-Penn Quarter Station or L’Enfant Plaza (Green or Yellow line) and from the L’Enfant Plaza or Smithsonian station (Blue, Orange or Silver lines).

Questions? Email Lauren Leavy, VCU Alumni’s senior coordinator of alumni engagement events.


VCU Libraries, ICA to present ‘The Life and Work of Richard Carlyon’


Richard Carlyon was ‘one of the irrepressible icons of VCU and the School of Arts,’ according to Joseph H. Seipel, interim director of the Institute for Contemporary Art and dean emeritus for the School of the Arts.

VCU Libraries and the VCU Institute for Contemporary Art will look back at the influential artist and VCU School of the Arts faculty emeritus Richard Carlyon (1930-2006) with a one-night program and art showing of several of his video installations.


The event — held in conjunction with a new retrospective exhibition of Carlyon’s work, “A Network of Possibilities,” at the Reynolds Gallery — marks the recent addition of video works to the Richard Carlyon papers held by Special Collections and Archives at VCU Libraries. It also will mark the launch of a campaign to raise a $1 million endowment for Special Collections and Archives at VCU Libraries.

The event, “The Life and Work of Richard Carlyon,” will be held Feb. 8 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. in the third-floor lecture hall of James Branch Cabell Library, 901 Park Ave. Attendance is free and open to the public, though registration is requested.

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Rare copy of precursor to the first American comic book added to VCU Libraries’ Comic Arts Collection

Cindy Jackson, library specialist for comic arts for Special Collections and Archives, displays VCU Libraries’ copy of “Famous Funnies: A Carnival of Comics.”

VCU Libraries’ Special Collections and Archives has acquired a rare copy of “Famous Funnies: A Carnival of Comics,” which was printed in 1933 and was the precursor of what is considered to be the first American comic book.

“All modern comic books descend from ‘Famous Funnies’ and VCU is very fortunate to receive such a pristine copy of this historically significant comic,” said Yuki Hibben, assistant head and curator of books and art, Special Collections and Archives in James Branch Cabell Library. “This addition enhances the research value and comprehensiveness of VCU Libraries’ Comic Arts Collection.”

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A covert operation: How alumna Eva Dillon learned a Cold War secret

By Anthony Langley (B.S.’16/MC)

Eva DillonAs a child, Eva Dillon (B.M.’82/A) moved all around the world. She and her six siblings would fall in love with a country, and a few years later, her father’s job would take the family somewhere new.

“I was born in Berlin, Germany, four years before the [Berlin] Wall went up,” she says. “I remember being frightened by the guards, the barbed wire and German shepherds, but our parents felt it was important that we see it.”

The family also lived in Mexico City and Rome before returning to the States shortly after the conclusion of the Cuban missile crisis. When Dillon was 17, the family moved to New Delhi. It was 1975, the year a bombshell, tell-all book called “Inside the Company: CIA Diary” was published. The book listed the names of 250 CIA officers, and her father, Paul Dillon, was on that list.

“We always thought he worked for the State Department, but when we saw a news article identifying him, we learned the truth,” Dillon says.

The book was written by former CIA officer Philip Agee who worked for her father when the family lived in Mexico City seven years earlier. In it, Agee revealed that Dillon’s father was an operations officer in the Agency’s Soviet division.  Eventually Dillon learned that he handled the CIA’s highest-ranking double agent, Gen. Dmitri Fedorovich Polyakov.

Going her own way

A year later, Dillon returned to the U.S. to attend the Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts, graduating with a music degree focused on composition and theory. Though music was her passion (she still sings to this day), Dillon realized that she wanted to go in a different direction.

“Five of my siblings attended VCU. We all lived in the Fan,” she says. “Just about all of us worked at Strawberry Street Café. It was how we worked our way through college. We had an amazing experience!”

After graduation, Dillon worked as a roving assistant at National Geographic, where she eventually landed in the advertising department. She loved the publishing industry and decided to pursue a career in business operations. She moved to New York City and got a job at a trade magazine in advertising sales, marketing and circulation. From there, she worked at TV Guide, Glamour, Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and other publications, later becoming president of Reader’s Digest.

Putting pen to paper

With 25 years of experience in the publishing world, Dillon was ready to write her own book, one that told the story of her father and Polyakov. After learning that the general’s son, Alexander Polyakov, had emigrated to the U.S., she sought him out, and he was willing to share his stories with her.

She began to collect material written about Polyakov from newspapers, magazines and various books, and with his son’s help, she also gained access to information from Russia that she had translated. Combining that information with interviews she had from her father’s former colleagues and friends, she filled in the details of the story.

The resulting book, “Spies in the Family: An American Spymaster, His Russian Crown Jewel, and the Friendship That Helped End the Cold War,” paints a broad picture of the Cold War, the issues and the political environment and tells various stories about government operatives and assets. The book also delves into further detail about what life was like for both the Dillon and Polyakov families unknowingly growing up in the family of spies.

“With [Alexander’s] help, I was now able to tell the story from two sides,” Dillon says. “General Polyakov worked on behalf of our country for 18 years. I felt it was important people know what he did for us.”

Dillon returns to VCU on Dec. 6 for a talk at James Branch Cabell Library to discuss the book and reveal additional insights into Cold War politics. The talk will be followed by a Q&A, book-signing and a reception.

Project shares ephemera from women’s suffrage, temperance, civil rights and other social movements

A postcard from a series published by The Cargill Company that was “Endorsed and Approved by the National American Woman Suffrage Association.” Source: Adèle Goodman Clark papers, 1849-1978, James Branch Cabell Library, VCU Libraries.

Sheet music for the suffragists’ rallying song “Votes for Women.” A Superboy comic PSA from the 1950s extolling the virtues of public education. A Victrola ad from 1920 suggesting that community singing would bring immigrants “into the fold of American citizenry.” A temperance movement handbill warning that alcohol is the “Fluid Extract of Hell” and “GUARANTEED TO KILL BOYS.”

These are just a few of the intriguing items to be found in a new project by VCU Libraries and seven partner institutions that showcases photographs, pamphlets, placards, advertisements, buttons and other ephemera from the history of social reform movements and social services.

“We’re making a door for researchers and others who are interested in the history of the social movements and our nation’s response to human need,” said project manager Alice Campbell, digital outreach and special projects librarian with VCU Libraries. “It’s difficult to know where to go and how to search across multiple institutions, so we’ve created a portal that lets you see choice materials from each of the institutions’ collections, and then travel through to their websites.”

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Jade Chang wins VCU Cabell First Novelist Award for ‘The Wangs vs. the World’

Jade Chang’s debut novel, “The Wangs vs. the World,” tells the story of an immigrant family whose sudden loss of a cosmetics empire and their home sends them on a road trip across America where they discover what endures as a family and within themselves. (Jade Chang photo credit: Teresa Flowers)

Jade Chang has won the 2017 VCU Cabell First Novelist Award, which honors an outstanding debut novel published during a calendar year. Her winning book, “The Wangs vs. the World,” published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, tells the story of an immigrant family whose sudden loss of a cosmetics empire and their home sends them on a road trip across America where they discover what endures as a family and within themselves.

Chang will receive the award Nov. 16 at Virginia Commonwealth University, where she will give a reading and participate in a roundtable and discussion with VCU students and the public. The event will be held in the Cabell Library Lecture Hall (Room 303) at 7 p.m. For additional details, visit www.firstnovelist.vcu.edu/event/. Chang was one of three finalists for the prize, now in its 16th year. The other finalists were Chad Dundas for “Champion of the World” and Margaret Wappler for “Neon Green.”

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