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Virginia State University

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Virginia State University
Former names
Virginia Normal and Collegiate Institute (1882–1902)
Virginia State College for Negroes (1902–1946)
Virginia State College (1946–1979)
Motto"Greater Happens Here"
TypePublic historically black land-grant university
EstablishedMarch 6, 1882; 142 years ago (1882-03-06)
Academic affiliations
Endowment$56.1 million (2020)[1]
PresidentMakola M. Abdullah
Academic staff
Students4,648 (fall 2022)[2]
Location, ,
United States
CampusLarge suburb, 231 acres (0.93 km2)
NewspaperThe Statesman
ColorsOrange and blue
Sporting affiliations

Virginia State University (VSU or Virginia State) is a public historically Black land-grant university in Ettrick, Virginia. Founded on March 6, 1882 (1882-03-06), Virginia State developed as the United States's first fully state-supported four-year institution of higher learning for Black Americans. The university is a member school of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund.


University entrance

Virginia State University was founded on March 6, 1882, when the legislature passed a bill to charter the Virginia Normal and Collegiate Institute. The bill was sponsored by Delegate Alfred W. Harris, a Black attorney whose offices were in Petersburg, but who lived in and represented Dinwiddie County in the General Assembly. A hostile lawsuit delayed opening day for nineteen months, until October 1, 1883. In 1902, the legislature revised the charter act to curtail the collegiate program and to change the name to Virginia Normal and Industrial Institute.

In 1920, the land-grant program for Black students was moved from a private school, Hampton Institute, where it had been since 1872, to Virginia Normal and Industrial Institute. In 1923 the college program was restored, and the name was changed to Virginia State College for Negroes in 1930. The two-year branch in Norfolk was added to the college in 1944; the Norfolk division became a four-year branch in 1956 and gained independence as Norfolk State College in 1969. Meanwhile, the parent school was renamed Virginia State College in 1946. The legislature passed a law in 1979 that changed the name to Virginia State University.

In the first academic year, 1883–1884, the university had 126 students and seven faculty (all of them Black), one building, 33 acres (13 ha), a 200-book library, and a $20,000 budget. By the centennial year of 1982, the university was fully integrated, with a student body of nearly 5,000, a full-time faculty of about 250, a library containing 200,000 books and 360,000 microform and non-print items, a 236-acre (96 ha) campus and 416-acre (168 ha) farm, more than 50 buildings, including 15 dormitories and 16 classroom buildings, and a biennial budget of $31,000,000, exclusive of capital outlay.

The university is situated in Chesterfield County at Ettrick, on a bluff across the Appomattox River from the city of Petersburg. It is accessible via Interstate Highways 95 and 85, which meet in Petersburg.

The first person to bear the title of President, John Mercer Langston, was one of the best-known Black men of his day. Until 1992, he was the only Black man ever elected to the United States Congress from Virginia (elected in 1888), and he was the great-uncle of the famed writer Langston Hughes. From 1888 to 1968, four presidents – James H. Johnston, John M. Gandy, Luther H. Foster, Robert P. Daniel served an average of 20 years, helping the school to overcome adversity and move forward. The next twenty years, 1968–1992, saw six more presidents—James F. Tucker, Wendell P. Russell, Walker H. Quarles, Jr., Thomas M. Law, Wilbert Greenfield, and Wesley Cornelious McClure. On June 1, 1993, Eddie N. Moore, Jr., the former Treasurer of the Commonwealth of Virginia, became the twelfth President of Virginia State University. Dr. Keith T. Miller became Virginia State University's 13th president from 2010 to 2014. In 2015, Dr. Pamela V. Hammond became the first woman to lead Virginia State University in 133 years. She was appointed as interim president on January 1, 2015. On February 1, 2016, President Makola Abdullah, Ph.D., was named as the 14th president of Virginia State University. Dr. Abdullah previously served as provost and senior vice president at Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach, Fla. President Abdullah is a Chicago native who is the youngest African American to receive a Ph.D. in engineering. He earned his undergraduate degree from Howard University in civil engineering and a Master of Science in civil engineering from Northwestern University.

In 2020, MacKenzie Scott donated $30 million to Virginia State. Her donation is the largest single gift in Virginia State's history.[3]

Main campus[edit]


The university has a 231-acre (0.93 km2) main campus and a 412-acre (1.67 km2) agricultural research facility known as the Randolph Farm. The main campus includes more than 50 buildings, including 11 dormitories and 18 academic buildings. The main campus is located close to the Appomattox River in Ettrick, Virginia.[4]

Campus 2006

Residence halls[edit]

  • Branch Hall
  • Byrd Hall
  • Eggleston Hall
  • Gateway 2
  • Langston Hall
  • Moore Hall
  • Quad Hall (buildings I&II)
  • Seward Hall
  • Whiting Hall
  • Williams Hall
  • University Apartments (off-campus)[5]


This is a list of the departments within each college:[6]

  • College of Agriculture
    • Agriculture Business and Economics
    • Agricultural Education
    • Animal Science
    • Animal Science and Pre-Veterinary Medicine
    • Aquatic Science, Environmental Science
    • Hospitality Management
    • Plant and Soil Science
  • The Reginald F. Lewis College of Business
    • Accounting and Finance
    • Management Information Systems
    • Management and Marketing
  • College of Engineering and Technology
    • Electrical and Engineering Technology
    • Mechanical Engineering Technology
    • Computer Engineering
    • Information and Logistics Technology
    • Manufacturing Engineering
    • Computer Science
    • Mathematics
  • College of Natural Sciences
    • Biology
    • Chemistry and Physics
    • Psychology
  • College of Education
    • Professional Education Programs
      • Graduate Professional Education Programs
      • Center for Undergraduate Professional Education Programs
    • Health, Physical Education and Recreation
  • College of Humanities and Social Sciences
    • Art and Design
      • Animation
      • Graphic Design
      • Studio Art
    • History and Philosophy
    • Languages and Literature
      • English
    • Mass Communications
    • Military Science
    • Music
    • Political Science, Public Administration and Economics
    • Sociology, Social Work, and Criminal Justice
  • Bachelor of Individualized Studies
  • College of Graduate Studies, Research, and Outreach (offering master's degrees in):
    • Biology (MS)
    • Computer Science (MS)
    • Counselor Education (MS, MEd)
    • Criminal Justice (MS)
    • Economics (MA)
    • Education (MEd)
    • Educational Administration and Supervision (MS, MEd)
    • Interdisciplinary Studies (MIS)
    • Mathematics (MS)
    • Media Management (MA)
    • Psychology (MS)
    • Sport Management (MS)


The 2017–2018 student body was 57.4% female and 43% male. It consists of 69.7% in-state and 30.3% out-of-state students.[7] 97.2% of students live on campus and 2.8% off-campus.[7] 91.1% of students self-identify as Black/African American, while 4.0% are White, and 4.0% are racially unreported.


Virginia State has 14 Division II athletic teams on campus and is a member of the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) conference.

Student activities[edit]

There are over 70 student organizations on campus, including the Student Government Association and National Pan-Hellenic Council.[8]

Marching band[edit]

The Virginia State University Trojan Explosion is composed of instrumentalists, Essence of Troy Dancers, Satin Divas Flag, and Troy Elegance Twirlers.

The famed “Marching 110,” was built during the leadership of Dr. F. Nathaniel Pops Gatlin and Dr. Claiborne T. Richardson. In 1984 the marching band was renamed the “Trojan Explosion” under the direction of Harold J. Haughton, Sr. and the music department began to grow. In 2013, Professor James Holden, Jr. became Director of Bands. In addition to serving as director of the world renowned VSU Gospel Chorale, Holden has served as assistant director of Bands since 1984. Arguably one of the top arrangers in the country, Holden is known throughout the musical world as an exquisite saxophonist.

The renowned Trojan Explosion Marching Band is a captivating show style band executing high intensity, musicality and showmanship on and off the field. The Trojan Explosion has been selected to attend the Honda Battle of the Bands 9 consecutive years. In addition to numerous accolades and achievements, the drum line performed at the White House for President Barack Obama during the signing of the HBCU Funding Bill. The Trojan Explosion don blue and orange for home games and blue, orange and white for away games.


Originally led by head coach Paulette Johnson, for 35 years, the Woo Woos are a nationally recognized cheerleading squad known for original, up-tempo and high energy performances. The 30 member squad is composed of young women from all over the country. The squad focuses on community service as well as promoting school spirit. Tryouts are held annually during the spring semester for VSU full-time students. Instructional camps and workshops are offered throughout the state.

In 2001, the university granted the Woo Woo Alumni chapter its initial charter. The organization has a rapidly growing membership that is actively involved in the promotion of the squad and its individual members. Shandra Claiborne, a former Woo Woo, led the team for one year following the retirement of Johnson. The squad has been under the leadership of former Woo Woo Cassandra Artis-Williams since 2013.

Concert choir[edit]

The Department of Music had a recording Concert Choir. In 1974, This choir recorded an album entitled The Undine Smith Moore Song Book a recording in the series of Afro-American heritage in songs.[9] This recording was third in the series, which aspired to produce a recording each year of the works of this Black composer who was a former faculty member and co-director of the Black Man in American Music Center.[9] The choir also performed selections from this series in Baltimore at Bethel AME Church," including songs from a group of gospel selections arranged by VSC students Larry Bland, Janet Coleman, and Roger Holliman."[9] Several graduates of VSC were living in Baltimore, and came to join the choir at the end of the program as they sang the Evening Song.

Notable people[edit]


Alumna Camilla Williams, the first African American to get a contract from a major American opera company (namesake of Taylor-Williams Hall at the university)

This list includes graduates, non-graduate former students and current students of Virginia State University.

Name Class year Notability Reference(s)
Gaye Adegbalola 1978 Blues singer and civil rights activist
James Avery Actor
Deshauna Barber 2011 Miss USA 2016, Top 9 in Miss Universe 2016 [10]
Clara Byrd Baker Educator, civic leader, and suffragist [11]
Aline Elizabeth Black Educator and the focus of a civil rights suit
Joe Bonner Jazz pianist [12]
Matilda Booker 1911 American educator and administrator [13]
Herman Branson 1936 African American physicist, best known for his research on the alpha helix protein structure [14]
Rovenia M. Brock Nutritionist, lecturer, health reporter, entrepreneur, and author [15]
Al Bumbry Major League Baseball [16]
Larry Brooks 1971 Former NFL defensive lineman for the Los Angeles Rams and current assistant coach of the Virginia State Trojans football team
James Brown Former NFL player
Pamela E. Bridgewater Former U.S. Ambassador to Ghana and current U.S. ambassador to Jamaica
Trenton Cannon 2017 NFL running back for the New York Jets
Rufus Crawford Former NFL and CFL player
James H. Coleman, Jr. 1956 first African American justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court, retired [17]
Dorothy Cotton Top Aide to Martin Luther King Jr., later serving as aide for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference aide Dorothy Cotton
Rosalyn Dance 1986 Politician, Member of the Virginia House of Delegates from the 63rd district [18]
Das EFX attended Rap group
Silas DeMary 1993 Arena Football League player [19]
Wale Folarin DC Rapper (transferred to Bowie State University)
Roger L. Gregory 1975 Judge, United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit [20]
Aaron Hall attended Member of the Music Group Guy
Damion Hall attended Member of the Music Group Guy
Otelia Shields Howard attended English instructor at VSC from 1921 to 1945 [21]
ABilly S. Jones-Hennin 1967 LGBT rights activist and organizer
Delores G. Kelley 1956 Member of Maryland State Senate, representing Maryland's District 10 in Baltimore County, Maryland
Kelvin Kinney Former NFL player
Reginald F. Lewis 1965 Businessman; owner of TLC Beatrice International
William H. Lewis c. 1890 Former United States Assistant Attorney General
Naomi Long Madgett 1945 Teacher and an award winning poet, she is also the senior editor of Lotus Press, which is a publisher of poetry books by African-American poets [22]
Lucy McBath 1982 U.S. Congresswoman from Georgia [23]
Amaza Lee Meredith c. 1926 One of the nation's first Black female architects (International Style). [24]
Thomas Miller Prolific graphic designer and visual artist, whose best known publicly accessible work is the collection of mosaics of the founders of DuSable Museum of African American History in Chicago, Illinois. [25]
Héctor Martínez Muñoz First member of the Supreme Court of Puerto Rico
Jim Mitchell Former NFL player
Bashorun Olalekan 1984 Nigerian academic
Dr. Regenia A. Perry 1961 One of the first African American women to earn a Ph.D. in art history [26]
Ora Brown Stokes Perry 1900 clubwoman, community organizer in Richmond [27]
Al Stewart 1990 Acting Secretary of labor under Joe Biden, Deputy Director of Labor
James H. Stith 1963 African-American physicist and current professor of Physics at Ohio State University [28]
Roslyn Tyler Politician, Member of the Virginia House of Delegates from the 75th district
Billy Taylor 1942 Jazz musician
Dennis L. Via 1980 Four star general, U.S. Army, Retired, 18th Commanding General United States Army Materiel Command (AMC)
Gladys West 1952 (BS), 1955 (MS) Mathematician inducted into the United States Air Force Hall of Fame
Ken Whitlock 1947 CFL player, first Black player for the Toronto Argonauts [29]
Camilla Williams 1941 First African-American to receive a contract from a major American opera company
Benjie E. Wimberly Member of the New Jersey General Assembly [30]
Avis Wyatt 2007? Professional basketball player

See also[edit]


  1. ^ As of June 30, 2020. U.S. and Canadian Institutions Listed by Fiscal Year 2020 Endowment Market Value and Change in Endowment Market Value from FY19 to FY20 (Report). National Association of College and University Business Officers and TIAA. February 19, 2021. Archived from the original on February 21, 2021. Retrieved February 21, 2021.
  2. ^ "Quick Facts data" (PDF). www.vsu.edu. Retrieved March 27, 2023.
  3. ^ Milby, Jeff (December 15, 2020). "Philanthropist MacKenzie Scott gifts Virginia State University its largest-ever donation". Progress Index. Archived from the original on December 15, 2020. Retrieved December 16, 2020.
  4. ^ "About VSU". Virginia State University. Archived from the original on May 29, 2013. Retrieved July 1, 2013.
  5. ^ "Residence Halls". Virginia State University. Archived from the original on May 29, 2013. Retrieved July 1, 2013.
  6. ^ "Schools". Archived from the original on September 15, 2012.
  7. ^ a b "General Characteristics of Headcount Enrollment" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on March 17, 2009. Retrieved January 21, 2010.
  8. ^ "Student Organizations".
  9. ^ a b c "VSC Concert Choir Completes Recording". Charlottesville-Albemarle Tribune. December 5, 1974.
  10. ^ "Deshauna Barber Crowned Miss USA 2016 - Virginia State University". www.vsu.edu. Archived from the original on June 16, 2016. Retrieved June 8, 2016.
  11. ^ "African–American History Month at the Library of Virginia". lva.virginia.gov. Library of Virginia. Archived from the original on October 23, 2016. Retrieved October 22, 2016.
  12. ^ "Joe Bonner at All About Jazz". allaboutjazz.com. Archived from the original on April 16, 2011. Retrieved January 26, 2011.
  13. ^ "Matilda V. Mosley Booker Biography". Dictionary of Virginia Biography. Retrieved May 13, 2022.
  14. ^ "The Protein Papers". pnas.org. Archived from the original on May 25, 2012. Retrieved January 26, 2011.
  15. ^ "Everything Dr Ro". everythingro.com. Archived from the original on February 1, 2011. Retrieved January 25, 2011.
  16. ^ "Al Bumbry Stats". Baseball Almanac. Archived from the original on November 3, 2012. Retrieved November 6, 2012.
  17. ^ Associate Justice James H. Coleman Jr
  18. ^ "Rosalyn Dance Virginia House of Delegates". state.va.us. Archived from the original on October 28, 2010. Retrieved January 25, 2011.
  19. ^ "Silas Demary". www.arenafan.com. Arena Fan. Archived from the original on November 3, 2013. Retrieved August 28, 2012.
  20. ^ "Roger L. Gregory". Archived from the original on March 7, 2016. Retrieved February 9, 2016.
  21. ^ "In Memoriam: Otelia Shields Howard". The Virginia Statesman. March 30, 1946. Archived from the original on May 7, 2021. Retrieved May 6, 2021 – via HBCU Library Alliance.
  22. ^ "Poet Laureate Naomi Long Madgett". naomilongmadgett.com. Archived from the original on July 14, 2011. Retrieved January 26, 2011.
  23. ^ King, Jamilah (March–April 2018). "A white man shot and killed her only son. Now Lucy McBath is running so it doesn't happen to anyone else". Mother Jones. Archived from the original on September 13, 2021. Retrieved August 10, 2021.
  24. ^ "Amaza Lee Meredith: Teacher, Artist, and Architect". Lynchburg Museum System. August 24, 2018. Archived from the original on October 2, 2020. Retrieved May 24, 2020.
  25. ^ "Thomas Miller Biography". thehistorymakers.com. Archived from the original on June 17, 2011. Retrieved January 26, 2011.
  26. ^ "Personality: Dr. Regenia A. Perry". richmondfreepress.com. March 31, 2022. Retrieved June 20, 2022.
  27. ^ "Virginia Normal Adds Mrs. Stokes to Faculty" Chicago Defender (December 24, 1921): 5. via ProQuest
  28. ^ "James Stith Physicist of African Diaspora". math.buffalo.edu. Archived from the original on May 25, 2011. Retrieved January 26, 2011.
  29. ^ Ove, Torsten (February 4, 2012). "Star Sewickley athlete, first Black Marine from area". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. p. A-11. Archived from the original on August 17, 2021. Retrieved August 17, 2021 – via Newspapers.com.
  30. ^ "Football: New Hackensack coach Benjie Wimberly to juggle range of positions". NorthJersey.com. March 1, 2012. Archived from the original on March 11, 2014. Retrieved November 6, 2013.

External links[edit]