Gold Line call reconnects alumna with alma mater, Richmond

If it weren’t for a Virginia Commonwealth University Gold Line student caller asking for annual fund support, Debbie House (M.T.’94/E) might not have given her original $1,000 gift, made during the Battle for the Capital alumni giving challenge. But that phone call, combined with a love of basketball and Richmond, inspired her to reconnect with the city and the university she loves.

“I was sitting in my office one day and a student called me,” said House, who now lives in Atlanta. “It was nice to hear from VCU. I was asked for $10 a month. We started talking about basketball. It was a nice conversation.”

That phone conversation prompted her to give $1,000 to the School of Education’s master of teaching program to help prepare future leaders in education, just as she was prepared in the field at VCU. It also led her and husband, Todd, a Wake Forest alumnus, to discuss a further commitment to her alma mater.

“Todd and I are both interested in philanthropy and wanted to do something for our schools,” House said. “I wanted to do something for VCU and the city of Richmond. I have a special place in my heart for Richmond. It’s where Todd and I met and married. It’s a special place. So is VCU."

To help address a growing, critical shortage of teachers willing to work in hard-to-staff schools or urban environments, the couple donated $25,000 to create the Debbie and Todd House Urban Education Scholarship in Math and Science in the VCU School of Education.
Hard-to-staff schools are typically inner-city schools in high poverty areas or in rural communities.

“There is a tremendous need for these teachers, particularly in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math. It’s important to make it easier for those who teach in these areas to get that education. I’m happy to do what I can,” Debbie House said. “I’ve always known the importance of a good education. It’s especially true now that I have two children. It’s important to give back to the places that shaped me and who I am. The faculty at VCU was excellent. I have the ability to think more broadly because of that experience. My husband was a scholarship recipient. It’s important to both of us to do the same for someone else. We really want to pay it forward somehow. I love the idea of investing in the future.”

In addition to demonstrating strong financial need, House scholarship applicants must have a minimum 3.3 grade point average and must have received formal admittance into the five-year teacher preparation program. Applicants must be committed to a teaching career in secondary education in science and math in hard-to-staff schools.

Thanks to the couple’s original $1,000 gift, the first award will be announced later this year.

“Teaching is truly a calling. Eliminating or minimizing student debt will help ensure our best teachers stay in the profession at an early stage in their career,” said VCU School of Education Dean Christine S. Walther-Thomas, Ph.D. “Endowed scholarships fill an urgent need in ensuring support for our most promising students. We are thrilled to have Debbie and Todd’s life-changing financial support for our students and future educators.”

To learn more about the School of Education, contact Magnus Johnsson (M.P.A.'10/GPA; Cert.'10/GPA), senior associate vice president of development, at (804) 827-1363 or