VUU graduates more than 300; receives $2.5M gift from alum
Thomas Kidd | 5/18/2019, 6 a.m.
Virginia Union University celebrated milestones, legacies and the future during its 120th commencement last Saturday at Hovey Field on the North Side campus.
To punctuate the occasion, award-winning actor, producer and humanitarian Danny Glover provided the keynote address and VUU President Hakim J. Lucas announced a $2.5 million gift to the university by Dr. Virginia B. Howerton of Maryland, a 1965 graduate who has spent more than 20 years as a consultant to government, businesses and nonprofit organizations.
Dr. Howerton’s gift is the largest single gift from an individual in the university’s history, officials said.
“The gift will allow us to fulfill a few of our dreams and goals,” Dr. Lucas said, including several strategic growth and development priorities, historic preservation on the Lombardy Street campus and full scholarships for qualifying students.
“She is an angel for our students and she is making a major impact on Virginia Union University,” he said.
A portion of her gift will go toward establishing the Howerton Scholars, a program to support incoming freshmen who reside in the city of Richmond, have a 3.0 or higher GPA and intend to major in English.
Dr. Howerton, who chose to remain anonymous until Saturday’s announcement, is the owner of ViGar Enterprises Inc. and The Crimson Development Company. She also is co-owner and vice president of Winnar Enterprises Inc., a management consulting company.
Officials said Dr. Howerton, who formerly served as project director for the dislocated worker program at the University of the District of Columbia, plans to be actively engaged with the university and its students through mentorship. She also will be seated on the VUU Board of Trustees, officials said.
At the commencement, Dr. Howerton was awarded the inaugural Doris and Steve Bullock Presidential Medal of Honor for her continual support of VUU and its students.
Her magnanimous gift and lifelong dedication to assisting African-American students served as the perfect backdrop for Mr. Glover’s keynote address.
The actor, whose film credits include the blockbuster “Lethal Weapon” franchise and the Oscar-nominated films “The Color Purple” and “Dreamgirls,” delivered an impassioned speech centered on the historical struggles of African people here and abroad.
“We are still fighting for the liberation of African people worldwide and economic inclusiveness as a bold new frontier,” Mr. Glover, a graduate of San Francisco State University, told the more than 300 VUU graduates, family members and friends. “There are more than 200 million African descendants living in the Northern and Southern hemispheres of which 90 percent live in poverty.”
The NAACP Image Award winner then cited the contributions of several VUU alumni who have made meaningful strides in pushing the agenda of people of African descent around the world. He spoke about Randall Robinson, VUU Class of 1967 and founder of the Washington-based advocacy organization, TransAfrica, that has influenced U.S. foreign policy regarding African and Caribbean nations since the late 1970s.
“TransAfrica played an essential role in the ‘Free South Africa’ Movement and thereby established itself as a premier non-governmental agency centered on the concerns of African descendants,” said Mr. Glover, who served as a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations Development Program from 1998 to 2004, focusing on issues of poverty, disease and economic development in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean.