Conversations to repurpose the old Richmond Community Hospital building ‘did not bear fruit’

3/7/2024, 6 p.m.
My name is Mary DePillars and I am an alumna of Virginia Union University concerned about recent comments attributed to …

My name is Mary DePillars and I am an alumna of Virginia Union University concerned about recent comments attributed to VUU personnel regarding the old Richmond Community Hospital building. I shared my Feb, 15, 2024, letter to the Richmond Free Press with VUU’s alumni relations manager that same day. However, for context, I am expanding those comments as follows:

For several years, I served as a member of the board of the Richmond Community Hospital Foundation, which had been established when the new Richmond Community Hospital was sold to Bon Secours in the mid-1990s. In 2008 or 2009, the Richmond Community Hospital Foundation Board decided to dissolve the foundation, as it then existed, after Bon Secours sought to absorb the RCH Foundation into its larger foundation which served all of its local facilities.

In effecting that dissolution, $1.3M was available for redistribution. The RCH Foundation voted to give those dollars to Virginia Union University. (An article about the funding can be found here: Virginia Union gets major scholarship donation: https://bit.ly/3V0E6zV)

This funding was to provide scholarships for Richmond students who wanted to pursue a health-sciences profession, starting at VUU. Bon Secours agreed to provide internships for such students at the appropriate time in their college years.

Peripheral conversations were held regarding securing funding from multiple sources to repurpose the long-vacant, and neglected, old Richmond Community Hospital building as learning-support space for students enrolled in a health-sciences feeder program at VUU via the Division of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. We now know that these conversations did not bear fruit.

Now, we are faced with this Richmond landmark being completely erased from the landscape and all the RVA history associated therewith obliterated by the shine of new money.

After reading, with great interest, George Copeland’s highly informative article in last week’s Richmond Free Press, I was left with the sense that VUU continues to listen only to itself, spinning a response that disregards input from its neighbors, constituents, donors, friends and supporters. Attempting to engage the community after plans are set is not helpful. The words of the president ring hollow. Engaging the community in the planning bodes well for creating a sense of shared ownership, acceptance, support and pride in the ultimately-emerged product.

As a now-deceased, highly respected city leader stated on several occasions as he sought to unite disparate factions in this city, “Where there is no informed discourse, you can never have a resolution to a problem.”

VUU, are you listening?

MARY DePILLARS, Virginia Union ’74


Editor’s Note: This donation endowed scholarships for Virginia Union students who are considering careers in health sciences. It has funded scholarships for more than 30 students over the years, including six students in this current academic year, according to a VUU spokesman.