Arts alumna hopes gift cultivates creativity

Sculptor and painter Annie Rhodes Lee (B.F.A. ’75) values a quality education, and she attributes this to the teachings of her family.

“There was a saying that I heard in my family over and over: ‘There is one thing that we can give you that no one can take away from you — a good education,’” Lee said.

Her family always stressed the importance of a solid formal education, yet also made a point to nurture her ability to appreciate the beauty and complexity of art and nature, she said. She wanted to pass along this enthusiasm for education and culture to a new generation. To foster that dream, in December 2007, Lee created the McLeod Scholarship in the Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts.

The McLeod Scholarship will provide $5,000 a year to a full-time undergraduate student enrolled in any department of the School of the Arts. The first award will be given to an incoming freshman in the fall semester of 2010.

“This generous gift from Ms. Lee, a talented artist and generous alumna, will help us to be as competitive as possible in attracting and retaining the most talented students to VCU Arts,” said Jayne Dolton Shaw, associate dean for development in the School of the Arts. “Scholarships are among our highest priorities. We are very grateful for what she is making possible.”

Lee established the scholarship to recognize the influences of her grandparents, Julia and Lee McLeod, and her parents, Dorothy and Jack Rhodes, in her life.

“Their inquisitive and observant natures were always opening my eyes to some detail in nature that would shift my perspective or some thought that would challenge my perception of things,” she said.

Lee and her husband, Stuart (B.S. ’73; M.S. ’79), have been longtime supporters of their alma mater. Lee reflects with great fondness on her days in the sculpture department in VCU’s School of the Arts.

“There was a cooperative spirit in the department where people freely shared formulas and techniques and ideas, allowing a sense of experimentation to flourish,” she said.

Because she has recently returned to working with clay, Lee has been thinking back to her time spent working with sculptor Jack Earl, an associate professor of art at VCU from 1972 to 1978. Lee credits her experiences in the School of the Arts at VCU with laying the foundation for her to develop her own artistic voice. She hopes that this scholarship will help another promising young artist explore his or her own potential under the guidance of instructors like Earl.

“Hopefully, this scholarship will offer just enough opportunity for a young art student to gain an understanding of how their work could enrich our cultural experience of the world,” she said.

For more information about making a gift to the School of the Arts, contact Jayne Dolton Shaw, associate dean for development in the School of the Arts, at (804) 827-4676 or