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.
He also cited the late Dr. Wyatt T. Walker, a 1950 VUU graduate, for his work in civil rights; the late Judge Spottswood W. Robinson III, a 1937 VUU graduate, who served as chief judge of the District of Columbia U.S. Court of Appeals, for his legal advocacy; and Roslyn M. Brock, who earned a bachelor’s degree and a master’s in divinity from VUU and serves as chief advocacy officer for Bon Secours Mercy Health — all members of the VUU family who made their mark by bettering living conditions for black people here and abroad.
“This is a power legacy for you to advance throughout your lives,” Mr. Glover said. “You can consider it your final assignment to complete — to make the world know the name Virginia Union University as you make your own contributions to the cycle of history.”
Mr. Glover was awarded an honorary degree for his work in the performing arts and for being an advocate for human rights.
Barbara Radcliffe Grey, a 1947 VUU alumna and longtime director of the VUU Museum Art Galleries, also was awarded an honorary degree for her love of art, education and the invaluable collection of artifacts she has acquired and cataloged for VUU.
And Dr. Earl F. Miller, an alumnus of VUU’s Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Theology, and dean of student affairs at VUU from 1972 to 1976, was awarded an honorary degree for his dedication to community, ministry and VUU.
The Scott & Stringfellow Award, recognizing outstanding teaching, research and mentoring, went to Dr. Yung Suk Kim, associate professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at VUU’s School of Theology.
The entire Panther family also recognized late VUU student Everett Allen Patterson, who died Wednesday, May 1, 2019, just weeks before his 55th birthday. Mr. Patterson earned a bachelor’s degree in cyber security. His wife, Deborah, and son, Everett Allen “Trey” Patterson III, marched with his classmates and accepted his degree.