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Teens pay tribute to teacher’s beloved pet

photo of Brady, the Portuguese water dog. A thoughtful gesture from his students brought high school chemistry teacher Daniel Fisher much needed comfort as he grieved the loss of his beloved Portuguese water dog, Brady. After Brady passed away within Fisher’s first month of teaching at St. Christopher’s School, a college preparatory school for boys in Richmond, Virginia, students from Fisher’s 10th-grade chemistry classes raised $100 to donate to a charity in Brady’s memory.

“When Brady passed away, I’d only been teaching for three or four weeks,” Fisher says. “I barely had the chance to get to know my students, but they were so thoughtful and caring. This gesture was an incredible testament to the character of these young men.”

Fisher chose to support the Virginia Commonwealth University Center for Human-Animal Interaction with the gift. The center promotes interdisciplinary research, service and educational activities related to the relationship between humans and animals.

In 2015, Fisher and Brady were in the final stages of completing their certification as a therapy dog and handler team through the center’s Dogs on Call program, which provides complementary canine-assisted therapy to patients at VCU Medical Center. Before they could complete their certification, Fisher was involved in a car crash. During his days in recovery at VCU Medical Center, he wanted nothing more than to have Brady at his side.

“Knowing how badly I wanted to see Brady while I was in the hospital, I figured it must be meaningful for other patients to have that kind of interaction with an animal,” he says. 

Soon after Fisher was released from the hospital, he and Brady completed their certification and spent one Sunday each month visiting patients on the same floor to which he was admitted after his crash.

“There is something so special about the comfort that people find in the company of an animal,” Fisher says. “I can’t think of a better way to honor Brady than by supporting research that allows patients to experience that comfort.”

To learn more about the Center for Human-Animal Interaction, contact Sandra Barker, Ph.D., NCC, LPC, center director, professor of psychiatry and Bill Balaban Chair in Human-Animal Interaction, at (804) 628-8528 or sandra.barker@vcuhealth.org.


Graduate stipend helps next generation of artists

Sonya Clark and her Graduate Assistant in the studio. Sonya Clark joined the Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts faculty as chair of the Craft and Material Studies Department in 2006. Clark, who was attracted to the school because of its commitment to research in the arts, has done her part to reinforce that commitment through yearly gifts to fund a stipend for a graduate assistant in her department.

“It becomes a mentoring relationship,” says Clark, who has given $60,000 toward the stipend since the start of the Make It Real Campaign for VCU in 2012. “The selected student functions as an assistant in my studio practice, so the person I’m helping also ends up helping me.”

Clark’s contributions are matched by the School of the Arts to provide tuition assistance for the graduate student.

During her graduate education at Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, Clark held a fellowship that provided similar financial assistance. That allowed her to move forward in her career after graduation without substantial student debt, and she is happy to help other graduate students in the same manner.

“This sort of work is near and dear to my heart,” Clark says. “I’m happy to put my money where my mouth is and support the next generation of artists.”

To learn more about the School of the Arts, contact Julia Carr, executive director of development, at (804) 827-4676 or carrj@vcu.edu.


Faculty establish scholarship to honor colleague

photo from check presentation for Michael D. Davis Scholarship in Urban Education Michael C. Huffman, Ph.D. (M.S.’02/E; Ph.D.’12/H&S), along with other School of Education faculty and staff members, established a scholarship in 2012 to honor their colleague Michael D. Davis, Ph.D., whose service to VCU has spanned 37 years. Huffman has since made yearly contributions to the fund, most recently with a pledge of $1,500 in August 2016.

“Dr. Davis served as a faculty member, scholar, key administrator, dean and assistant to the provost,” says Huffman, who worked with Davis in the School of Education and is now the director of the Office of Continuing and Professional Education at VCU. “He is the consummate colleague and professional, and education is his passion.”

Huffman has given almost $9,000 to the scholarship since its creation and has supported numerous other VCU funds over the years.

It’s important to support the institution that has given me so much and the various endeavors of the university that can help young people achieve their goals in life and the education they need,” Huffman says. “I certainly intend to continue that giving in the future.”

The Michael D. Davis Scholarship in Urban Education awards up to $2,000 to one or two students each year who show an interest in working in an urban school and with students of diverse ethnic backgrounds.

Davis, who has remained involved in VCU’s Office of Continuing and Professional Education since his retirement, values the opportunity the scholarship provides for future teachers who aspire to teach in inner city settings, noting that students in such schools are often those most in need of excellent teachers. He has made his own contributions to support the scholarship over the years.

“I consider the Scholarship in Urban Education to be one of the highlights of my career,” he says. “Supporting the next generation of teachers is a wonderful legacy.”

To learn more about the School of Education, contact Ed Kardos, senior director of development, at (804) 828-4692 or egkardos@vcu.edu.


Pharmacist honors son-in-law, pays it forward

Ronald Davis and his son-in-law, David Williams, both School of Pharmacy alumni In 2006, Ronald Davis’ (B.S.’73/P) son-in-law, David Williams (B.S.’06/P), graduated from the School of Pharmacy. To celebrate Williams’ accomplishment, Davis established a scholarship in his honor with a gift of $10,000. In April 2016, he pledged an additional $25,000 to continue his support of the scholarship.

“I just felt a sense of pride when David graduated from the same school that I did,” Davis says. “I was looking for something to do to help students who have, over the years, helped me.”

In 1978, three years after his graduation from the VCU School of Pharmacy, Davis started accepting VCU students in rotation into his pharmacy, Tuckahoe Cardinal Drug, in Henrico, Virginia. Since then, Davis and his team, now located in Palmyra, Virginia, at Jefferson Pharmacy, have trained more than 500 VCU students.

“It’s been a great relationship,” Davis says. “We do the helping and the training, and at the same time, we get young people just coming out of school with all the knowledge in their head. We teach them what we know, and they teach us what they just learned. It’s been a really good cooperative effort.”

Davis is consistently impressed by VCU School of Pharmacy students and recent graduates.

“I’ve had the opportunity to see students from other schools, and VCU does an outstanding job,” says Davis, who currently represents the School of Pharmacy on VCU’s Make It Real Campaign Cabinet. “The students coming out of there are top quality.”

The Ronald G. Davis and David L. Williams Pharmacy Scholarship awards $2,000 to one student each year, ensuring that future pharmacists with financial need can receive a quality education.

To learn more about the School of Pharmacy, contact Ellen Carfagno, director of development, at (804) 828-3016 or emcarfagno@vcu.edu.


VCU librarian invests in future of students, faculty

“A Vietnamese proverb says that when you eat a fruit, you have to remember the person who planted the fruit tree,” says My Guidarelli, a catalog librarian in the James Branch Cabell Library at Virginia Commonwealth University.

This cultural belief has manifested itself in Guidarelli’s many years of giving to VCU, including her recent pledge of $1,440 to the Library of the Future Fund made during VCU’s recent faculty, staff and retiree giving campaign.

Guidarelli has worked at VCU for 23 years and considers the university her second home.

“I’m really a student at heart, and that’s why I enjoy working in this academic environment,” says Guidarelli, who is also an assistant professor in the metadata and discovery department and an adjunct instructor of French.

The Library of the Future Fund helps ensure that VCU’s libraries can meet the needs of future generations of students by maintaining workspaces and furniture, providing educational resources and keeping pace with developments in technology.

“We try to provide our faculty and students with the best tools to encourage them in their academic and professional pursuits, but they are not the only ones who benefit from a strong library,” Guidarelli says. “Libraries are a repository for human knowledge. They benefit the entire community by providing a gathering place for all to learn, teach and collaborate.”

To learn more about VCU Libraries, contact Kelly Gotschalk (B.F.A.’90/A; M.A.’97/A), director of development and major gifts, at (804) 827-1163 or kjgotschalk@vcu.edu.


Couple honor friend with gift to VCU Libraries

Photo of Christopher Fullerton to be used on VCU's Campaign Giving News site. A tour of the James Branch Cabell Library’s Special Collections and Archives inspired a gift from Ceci Hull (B.S.’89/H&S) and her husband, Doyle. Their $1,000 pledge was made in August 2016 in memory of their friend, Christopher Dean Fullerton (B.S.’91/H&S), who was killed in a car crash in 1997.

“Christopher loved Richmond, with its history and eclectic music scene,” Hull says. “When I toured Special Collections, I saw the pages and pages of band handbills, photographs and issues of ThroTTle and The Commonwealth Times. Many memories came back to me.”

The Special Collections and Archives provide access to rare publications and primary source materials, including book art, comic arts, manuscripts, books and periodicals. Fullerton wrote for The Commonwealth Times, VCU’s student-run newspaper, and ThroTTle, a Richmond-based music magazine that was founded by VCU students in 1981 and ran until 1999. Fullerton’s band, The Dixie Pigs, also played many of the clubs whose fliers are in the library’s collection.

Their gift holds special significance to the Hulls, who continue to honor Fullerton’s memory.

“We named our youngest son in honor of Christopher,” Hull says. “Our oldest son, Jimmy, is a junior at VCU. As new buildings have replaced the ones from our days as students, I still think of Christopher as I walk through campus.”

The Hulls’ gift will be added to the Cabell Special Collections Endowment Fund and will assist in acquiring, cataloging and preserving rare Richmond materials for the use of the public.

Modified from a story by Kelly Gotschalk. See the original version here.

To learn more about the Special Collections and Archives in James Branch Cabell Library, contact Kelly Gotschalk (B.F.A.’90/A; M.A.’97/A), director of development and major gifts, at (804) 827-1163 or kjgotschalk@vcu.edu.


Mission-focused doctor supports service learning

When Janet Eddy, M.D. (M.D.’87/M), learned that VCU’s service living-learning community, ASPiRE, was sending students to Belize, she gave $1,100 to provide supplemental funding for two students who otherwise could not afford the trip. In July 2016, 12 students, including two who benefited from Eddy’s gift, ran a camp for 75 local children in Sandhill, Belize; stayed with host families; and traveled within the country to learn more about its history, ecology and culture.

Eddy traveled on medical missions abroad as a family physician for years, but a trip shadowing local midwives in Guatemala about 10 years ago allowed a true cultural exchange, and she saw community practices at work. Having worked with underserved communities in Richmond for the past 25 years, she came back from her trip to Guatemala with an expanded worldview and a deeper understanding of service.

Eddy wanted to give in a way that provides students an opportunity to expand their perspective on the world. ASPiRE’s community-oriented and cultural exchange service trip presented the perfect opportunity.

In Richmond, ASPiRE students live in a dedicated dorm for two years while completing 100 hours of co-curricular service hours and take classes each semester that develop their knowledge, skills and disposition for community engagement.

“It’s not just a do-good type thing,” Eddy says. “The students who do ASPiRE work with the community get to know what the challenges are, and they try to do the work that the people who live in the community think will really help people they know.

“Whatever we can do to help, particularly in the areas of education and health, is really key to boosting people who grow up in poverty into the middle class and better health.”

To learn more about VCU ASPiRE, contact Nannette Bailey, community partnerships coordinator, at (804) 827-2300 or nabailey@vcu.edu.


Guitar professor honors mentor with scholarship

photo of Jesus Silva One of the first things John Patykula (M.M.’82/A) did as a newly appointed full-time professor at Virginia Commonwealth University was to establish a scholarship to honor his former teacher and mentor, Jesùs Silva.

Silva, who passed away in 1996, was a world-renowned guitar virtuoso. Patykula first met him as a student at the North Carolina School of the Arts, where Silva was a professor, in 1969.

“He was a wonderful teacher and a wonderful mentor, and when he came [to Richmond, Virginia,] in 1979, that’s when I came up,” Patykula says.

Silva became an artist-in-residence at VCU, and Patykula was his assistant for the three years of the residency. Also during that time, Patykula was an adjunct professor while completing his master’s in music at VCU.

In 1989, after landing a full-time teaching position at VCU, Patykula created the Jesùs Silva Merit Scholarship Fund. Friends and former students of Silva also contributed to this scholarship fund and the fund’s first awards were given to talented and dedicated guitar students in 1991.

Patykula has faithfully given to the fund since its creation and to other VCU Music programs over the years. Since the start of the Make It Real Campaign for VCU, his contributions to the scholarship and to the Guitar and Other Strings concert series have totaled $3,680.

He considers giving “part of being a teacher,” citing Silva’s teacher, Andrès Segovia, who gave free master classes. “He wanted to do what he could to help promote the guitar and to make sure that it continued. So it’s a tradition, I think, with teachers. I think you find that with most teachers, not just guitar. They enjoy helping out.”

To learn more about the School of the Arts, contact Julia Carr, executive director of development, at (804) 828-4676 or carrj@vcu.edu.


‌Donors boost support with planned gift

recent photo of donors Miriam and Bill Blake Longtime educators and supporters of Virginia Commonwealth University Miriam S. (B.S.’69/E; M.Ed.’76/E) and William E. “Bill” Blake, Jr., Ph.D., have included a $100,000 planned gift in their estate plan to continue to support the funds they have created over the years.

The couple’s first gift to the university, in 1992, established the William E. and Miriam S. Blake, Jr. Lectureship in the History of Christianity in the College of Humanities and Sciences. It marked Bill’s retirement from 27 years of full-time teaching at VCU, though he continued to teach as a professor emeritus until 2012. A scholarship for students interested in Reformation and medieval history was established in Bill’s name in 2001, and in 2004, the William E. and Miriam S. Blake, Jr. Chair in the History of Christianity was endowed by one of his former students.

As a professor and a preacher, Bill values connecting with his audience and making history and theology relevant.

“Christianity, even for people of other religions or people with no religion, is part of so much that goes on in ordinary conversation and in the intellectual atmosphere,” he says. “Art, music, architecture – you can’t walk down the street without seeing evidence of Christianity. What does it all mean? How can you make sense of it? Both the Chair and the Lectureship are meant to help people understand the roots of it, see how it’s operating now, and maybe see where it’s headed.”

In 2012, the couple created the Miriam S. Blake Scholarship in Early and Elementary Education to honor Miriam’s career serving Hanover County, Chesterfield County and city of Richmond schools. It awards a minimum of $1,000 to one student in the School of Education each year. The selected student must demonstrate leadership qualities, show a strong need for financial assistance and be pursuing a teaching career in early and elementary education.

They have also donated numerous historical texts and personal items to VCU Libraries in the Cabell Special Collections and Archives, which the planned gift will also support.

“VCU has been our lives in many respects,” William Blake says. “We continue to be excited about its present and future. We will continue to do what we can to further its growth and encourage others to do the same.”

To learn more about planned giving, contact Doug McCartney, J.D., executive director of gift planning, at (804) 828-5563 or dwmccartney@vcu.edu.


VCU launches its largest fundraising campaign

Virginia Commonwealth University has launched the public phase of the $750 million Make It Real Campaign for VCU, the largest fundraising effort in the university’s history.

The Make It Real Campaign for VCU will impact every aspect of the university: students, alumni, faculty and staff, patients, caregivers, researchers, schools, libraries, centers and institutes, athletics and the community. VCU President Michael Rao, Ph.D., announced the campaign’s fundraising target at an event tonight at the James Branch Cabell Library.

“The Make It Real Campaign will transform VCU and help us continue to transform lives in Richmond and beyond,” Rao said. “Our faculty, students, patients, community partners and everyone who crosses paths with VCU will benefit. Our translational and transformational research mission will continue to advance the human experience. Our facilities will meet the needs and match the talents of our people. Our world-class patient care will help more people live longer, healthier lives. We are a global university, and the impact of this campaign will be global.”

The public phase of the campaign follows a silent period, which began July 1, 2012. VCU has raised $439.7 million since that soft opening. The campaign counts all funds raised through June 30, 2020. Because the Make It Real Campaign for VCU is a comprehensive fundraising initiative, every school and unit within the university has established a goal for the campaign. Donors can contribute to the campaign with a gift to these individual units or to VCU as a whole.

 “The university plays a vital role in our city and region, serving a broad range of students, patients and citizens,” said John Luke, rector of the VCU Board of Visitors. “This campaign provides an opportunity for all of us to support something at VCU, whatever our interests or passions may be.”

Gifts to the campaign support critical initiatives that promise to become points of distinction for VCU long into the future. In particular, the campaign will fuel growth in three primary areas – people, innovations and environment.


Funds raised through the campaign will attract, support and retain the finest students and faculty through scholarships, professorships and endowed chairs. Money from the campaign also will provide students with purposeful, hands-on learning and living experiences, and faculty with support for startup research ideas.


The campaign will help create new interdisciplinary partnerships and centers of excellence to offer students and faculty the right environments for meaningful research and learning experiences that will expand the university’s ability to solve complex local and global challenges through inquiry and discovery.


Through funds raised during the campaign, VCU will provide world-class facilities, equipment and materials to expand the university’s research capacity. In addition, the campaign will increase the impact and sustainability of VCU’s community partnerships and its resources in education, health and workforce development.

“The ultimate goal of the Make It Real Campaign for VCU is to change lives,” said Marti K. S. Heil, vice president for development and alumni relations at VCU. “Not just those of students and faculty, but those of the countless others touched by our graduates, researchers and educators in this community and farther afield. But we know that not everybody has the capacity to make a lifechanging gift. This campaign also aims to build our donor base by engaging more alumni and new friends, so that every gift, no matter the size, will help us bring about these powerful transformations.” 

Graduate stipend helps next generation of artists

Sonya Clark joined the Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts faculty as chair of the Craft and Material Studies Department in 2006. Clark, who was attracted to the school because of its commitment to research in the arts, has done her part to reinforce that commitment through yearly gifts to fund a stipend for a graduate assistant in her department.

Faculty establish scholarship to honor colleague

Michael C. Huffman, Ph.D. (M.S.’02/E; Ph.D.’12/H&S), along with other School of Education faculty and staff members, established a scholarship in 2012 to honor their colleague Michael D. Davis, Ph.D., whose service to VCU has spanned 37 years. Huffman has since made yearly contributions to the fund, most recently with a pledge of $1,500 in August 2016.