Virginia Union University

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Virginia Union University
MottoThe Lord Will Provide
TypePrivate, HBCU
Religious affiliation
American Baptist Churches USA & National Baptist Convention
Endowment$29 million
PresidentHakim Lucas
Location, ,
United States

37°33′45.8″N 77°27′3″W / 37.562722°N 77.45083°W / 37.562722; -77.45083Coordinates: 37°33′45.8″N 77°27′3″W / 37.562722°N 77.45083°W / 37.562722; -77.45083
CampusUrban, 84 acres (33.99 ha)
ColorsMaroon and Steel
AthleticsNCAA Division II
AffiliationsCentral Intercollegiate Athletic Association
Virginia Union University
Location1500 N. Lombardy St., Richmond, Virginia, United States
Area11 acres (4.5 ha)
ArchitectJohn H. Coxhead
Architectural styleRichardsonian Romanesque
NRHP reference No.82004590 [1]
VLR No.127-0354
Significant dates
Added to NRHPJuly 26, 1982
Designated VLRJune 16, 1981[2]

Virginia Union University (VUU) is a private historically black university in Richmond, Virginia. It took its present name in 1899 upon the merger of two older schools, Richmond Theological Institute and Wayland Seminary, each founded after the end of American Civil War by the American Baptist Home Mission Society. In 1932, Hartshorn Memorial College, a women's college, merged with VUU.


The university was founded in 1865 to give the newly emancipated freedmen an opportunity for education of the mind in an ethical, religious environment. A historically black university, Virginia Union University embraces the uniqueness and contributions of the African Diaspora, celebrating the value of cultural and intellectual diversity. However, enrollment is open to all students without regard to racial background.

The university provides comprehensive undergraduate liberal arts programs and graduate education for Christian ministries. To this end, a guiding principle of the university's educational program is a strong focus upon moral values and ethics, and students are encouraged to engage in activities that promote self-actualization.


Pickford Hall, Virginia Union University

The American Baptist Home Mission Society (ABHMS) founded the school in 1865 shortly after Union troops took control of Richmond, Virginia, at the end of the American Civil War. Approximately 4 million former African American slaves, or freedmen, were to become citizens. Many had been deprived of formal education and prevented from becoming literate by Southern state laws. Southern states were in economic upheaval after the war. The college became the first academic library at an HBCU, building the library in 1865 the same year the college was established.[3]

Members of the ABHMS proposed a National Theological Institute to educate freedmen wishing to enter the Baptist ministry.[4] Soon the proposed mission was expanded to offer courses and programs at college, high school, and preparatory levels, to both men and women. This effort was the beginning of Virginia Union University.

Separate branches of the National Theological Institute were set up in Washington, D.C., and Richmond, Virginia, with classes beginning in 1867. In Washington, the school became known as Wayland Seminary, named in commemoration of Dr. Francis Wayland, former president of Brown University and a leader in the anti-slavery struggle. The first and only president was Dr. George Mellen Prentiss King, who administered Wayland for thirty years (1867–1897). Famous students there included Dr. Booker T. Washington and Dr. Adam Clayton Powell, Sr.[4]

In Richmond, the efforts were more difficult. Beginning in 1867, Colver Institute, a VUU predecessor school, was housed in a building long known as Lumpkin's Jail, a former "slave jail" owned by Mary Ann Lumpkin, the African-American widow of the deceased white owner. In 1899, the Richmond Theological Institute (formerly Colver Institute) joined with Wayland Seminary of Washington to form Virginia Union University at Richmond.

In 1932, the women's college Hartshorn Memorial College,[5][6] established in Richmond in 1883, became a part of Virginia Union University. Storer College, a historically black Baptist college in West Virginia (founded in 1867), merged its endowment with Virginia Union in 1964.

University presidents
Name Term
Malcolm MacVicar 1899–1904
Dr. George Rice Hovey 1904–1918
William John Clark 1919–1941
Dr. John Malcus Ellison* 1941–1955
Dr. Samuel Dewitt Proctor 1955–1960
Dr. Thomas Howard Henderson 1960–1970
Dr. Allix Bledsoe James 1970–1979
Dr. David Thomas Shannon 1979–1985
Dr. S. Dallas Simmons 1985–1999
Dr. Bernard Wayne Franklin 1999–2003
Dr. Belinda C. Anderson 2003–2008
Dr. Claude G. Perkins 2009–2016
Dr. Joseph F. Johnson 2016-2017(Acting)
Dr. Hakim Lucas 2017−present
*first VUU alumnus and African-American to serve as President of the University


The current president is Hakim Lucas, who was appointed in August 2017. Lucas is in litigation involving his former employment at Bethune-Cookman University surrounding the financing and construction of a dorm.[7]


The university is divided into four main schools:[8]

  • Evelyn Reid Syphax School of Education and Interdisciplinary Studies
  • School of Arts and Sciences
  • Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Theology
  • Sydney Lewis School of Business

Theology Program[edit]

Virginia Union University's Theological training program is called "The Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Theology at Virginia Union University". The school of theology has produced preachers such as Dean John W. Kinney, Dr. Miles Jones, Dr. A.B. James, Dr. James Henry Harris. The school is a member of the Washington Theological Consortium.[9]

Student activities[edit]

Fraternities and sororities[edit]

Nine of the National Pan-Hellenic Council organizations are currently at Virginia Union University. These organizations are:

Organization Symbol Chapter Chapter symbol
Alpha Kappa Alpha ΑΚΑ Alpha Eta AH
Alpha Phi Alpha ΑΦΑ Gamma Γ
Delta Sigma Theta ΔΣΘ Beta Epsilon BE
Kappa Alpha Psi ΚΑΨ Alpha Gamma ΑΓ
Omega Psi Phi ΩΨΦ Zeta Z
Phi Beta Sigma ΦΒΣ Lambda Λ
Sigma Gamma Rho ΣΓΡ Tau T
Zeta Phi Beta ΖΦΒ Nu N
Iota Phi Theta ΙΦΘ Theta Omicron ΘΟ


Virginia Union competes in the NCAA Division II in the Eastern Division of the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association. The school has varsity teams in men's basketball, football, cross country, golf, tennis and track and field, and in women's basketball, bowling, cross country, tennis and track and field, softball and volleyball.[10]

Virginia Union plays basketball and volleyball in the Barco-Stevens Hall, built as the Belgian Building for the 1939 New York World's Fair. The building, which has stone reliefs depicting the Belgian Congo, was one of thirteen facilities designated as "unique" by NCAA News in 2005. The building was awarded to the university in 1941 and moved to its present location in 1943. The basketball team began using the facility in early 1947.[11]

Notable alumni[edit]

Name Class year Notability Reference(s)
James Atkins 2002 Former NFL player
Mamye BaCote 1961 Virginia House of Delegates (2004-2016)
Homer S. Brown judge, civil rights leader, and state representative in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Bessye J. Bearden 1900s Journalist and social activist; mother of artist Romare Bearden
Leslie Garland Bolling 1924 Early 20th century wood carver
Simeon Booker 1941 award-winning journalist and the first African-American reporter for The Washington Post
Michael Brim 1988 former National Football League player
Roslyn M. Brock 1987 Chairman of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)
Henry Allen Bullock 1928 Historian, winner of the Bancroft Prize
Tamarat Makonnen 1994 Film director, producer and writer
Emmett C. Burns, Jr. Maryland House of Delegates (1995–2006)
Terry Davis Former NBA player [12]
Robert Prentiss Daniel 1924 President of Shaw and Virginia State universities for more than 30 years in total [13]
Will Downing attended R&B Singer
Continental Floyd 2007 Songwriter, Hip Hop recording artist, and Record producer (did not graduate)
AJ English former Professional Basketball Player [12]
Walter Fauntroy 1955 Civil rights leader, minister, former Member of the U.S. House of Representatives, from Washington, D.C.'s At-large district and was a candidate for the 1972 Democratic presidential nomination
Dr. Anderson J. Franklin Professor of Psychology at the School of Education at Boston College [14]
Samuel Lee Gravely, Jr. 1948 first African-American to reach the rank of admiral in the United States Navy
Abram Lincoln Harris 1922 Economist; chair, Economics Dept. Howard University (1936–1945); professor, University of Chicago
Pete Hunter 2002 former National Football League player
Cornelius Johnson Former NFL player
Eugene Kinckle Jones 1906 Member of the Black Cabinet under President Franklin D. Roosevelt and a founder of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.
Dwight Clinton Jones 1967 Mayor of Richmond, Virginia (2009–2016)
Howard S. Jones (inventor) 1943 Inventor, microwave systems hardware; 31 U.S. Patents
Charles Spurgeon Johnson 1916 first black president of Fisk University
Lyman T. Johnson 1930 integrated the University of Kentucky
Leontine T. Kelly 1960 a bishop of the United Methodist Church
Henry L. Marsh 1956 first African-American mayor of Richmond, Virginia and member of the Virginia Senate from the 16th district
Benjamin Mays 1916-1917, transferred to Bates College President of Morehouse College, mentor to Martin Luther King, Jr.
Bai T. Moore Liberian author and poet
Delores McQuinn 1976 Virginia House of Delegates (2009-present)
Charles Oakley Professional basketball Player [12]
Chandler Owen 1913 Writer, editor and early member of the Socialist Party of America.
Wendell H. Phillips member, Maryland House of Delegates (1979–1987)
Samuel DeWitt Proctor 1942 President of VUU and president of North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, where he made close acquaintance with then student body president Jesse Jackson
Dean John W. Kinney Dean, Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Theology at Virginia Union University
Randall Robinson Attorney; founder of TransAfrica
James R. Roebuck, Jr. 1966 member of Pennsylvania House of Representatives, District 188
Spottswood William Robinson III 1937 Prominent civil rights attorney, dean of Howard University Law School, first African American to be appointed to the United States District Court for the District of Columbia
Frank S. Royal 1961 chairman of VUU's board; director of public companies; former president of the National Medical Association [15]
Herbert Scott 1974 National Football League player, 2-time All-Pro, 3-time Pro Bowl; Dallas Cowboys [16]
Wyatt T Walker Activist, civil rights motivator, musician, Theologian who gave letter to Dr. Martin Luther King from Coretta; close confidant and preacher
Ben Wallace 1996 Professional Basketball Player, NBA Defensive Player of the Year, NBA Champions; Detroit Pistons [12]
Douglas Wilder 1951 first African-American governor of Virginia (1990–1994) and Mayor of Richmond (2005–2009)


  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. March 13, 2009.
  2. ^ "Virginia Landmarks Register". Virginia Department of Historic Resources. Archived from the original on 21 September 2013. Retrieved 19 March 2013.
  3. ^ Wheeler, Maurice, et al. “A Brief History of Library Service to African Americans.” American Libraries, vol. 35, no. 2, 2004, pp. 42–45. JSTOR,
  4. ^ a b "Virginia Union University (1865– )". Online Encyclopedia of Significant People and Places in African American History. Retrieved May 12, 2012.
  5. ^ "A Guide to the Hartshorn Memorial College Reunion Collection 1976–1980". L. Douglas Wilder Library Archives. February 7, 1980. Retrieved November 30, 2013.
  6. ^ "Virginia Archives Month October 2007: Images in Celebration". Library of Virginia Archives. Archived from the original on January 3, 2009. Retrieved November 30, 2013.
  7. ^ "Virginia Union president accused in lawsuit of accepting improper payments at past job". Richmond Times Dispatch. January 25, 2018. Retrieved January 27, 2018.
  8. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2015-09-05. Retrieved 2015-09-12.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  9. ^ "Member Institutions". Washington Theological Consortium. Retrieved September 1, 2009.
  10. ^ "Men's Sports / Women's Sports". Virginia Union University Athletics website. Retrieved November 30, 2013.
  11. ^ "Facilities: Barco-Stevens Hall". Virginia Union University Athletics website. Retrieved November 30, 2013.
  12. ^ a b c d "NBA/ABA Players who attended Virginia Union University". DataBase Sports. Archived from the original on 2006-09-20. Retrieved 2006-06-17.
  13. ^ Guthrie, R.V. (1998). Production of Black Psychologists in America: 'Even the Rat Was White' (2nd ed.). Boston: Allyn and Bacon. pp. 155–212.
  14. ^ "Anderson J Franklin Boston College". Boston College, Lynch School of Education. Retrieved November 30, 2013.
  15. ^ "Meharry board chair to retire after 30 years". Nashville Post. January 10, 2017. Retrieved May 22, 2018.
  16. ^ Ellis, Josh (May 30, 2012). "The Ultimate 53: Herb Scott Can't Be Forgotten". Dallas Archived from the original on May 31, 2012.

External links[edit]