Reflection: God-inspired Idea Leads to City of Richmond VUU Alumni Day Proclamation

Written by Maria D. James, C'04, Communications and Marketing Committee
Above: Maria D. James, C’04, VUUNAA secretary and co-organizer of VUUNAA Alumni Day in Richmond.

On October 4, 2020, Richmond’s mayor, Levar M. Stoney presented the VUU National Alumni Association, Inc. with a proclamation declaring October 4th forever as VUU Alumni Day in the City of Richmond. That day was a proud moment for me because I was able to witness my God-inspired idea come to fruition.

As the 2020 VUUNAA homecoming chairwoman, I was in the midst of planning our first virtual homecoming activities. While we did our best to keep the homecoming spirit alive, the fact was celebrating a homecoming virtually just wasn’t the same. We missed being on campus and seeing one another face-to-face. One morning I woke up with an idea that it was time that the city recognized the many ways VUU alumni have contributed to the City and the world. Being the bold, independent thinker that I was taught to be as a Unionite, I decided that somehow, we would make this idea happen.

Working together with our Immediate past VUUNAA president, Michael A. Newsome, and fellow alumna and VUU associate professor of business management, Tonya S. Scott-Hickman, we petitioned the City of Richmond to formally honor Virginia Union’s alumni.

The date selected for VUU Alumni Day commemorates the first classes held at our North Lombardy Street campus on October 4, 1899. That date also seemed to nicely coincide with our annual homecoming week festivities. Everyone agreed that this date would be perfect, and we set the gears in motion to make the proclamation happen. After two weeks of coordination, our request was granted – we even had a hand in drafting the proclamation! The press conference announcing the proclamation was held on Sunday, Oct. 4, 2020.

I will say that coordinating a press conference with the City’s mayor, our own University president, Dr. Hakim Lucas, and the VUUNAA executive board wasn’t easy. Not to mention that we were in the middle of a global pandemic. However, we persisted, and a press conference was safely held in the foyer of the Dr. Claude G. Perkins Living and Learning Center. The day’s program included greetings from VUU president, Dr. Hakim Lucas; reflections and opening prayer by VUU alumnus Reverend Dr. Dwight C. Jones C‘70, senior pastor of First Baptist Church of South Richmond and 79th mayor of Richmond; and the presentation of the proclamation by Mayor Stoney, 80th Mayor of Richmond, VA to our then VUUNAA president, Michael A. Newsome.

The City has now formally declared what we’ve always known – VUU has produced the best of the best.

The official proclamation reads as follows:

WHEREAS, Virginia Union University has been a major institution in the African American community in the City of Richmond, starting with its humble beginnings in Lumpkin’s Jail or the “Devils Half Acre” and growing over the years by merging with Richmond Theological Seminary, Wayland Seminary, Hartshorn Memorial College, and Storer College; and

WHEREAS, VUU Alumni have distinguished themselves in fields of endeavors as diverse as theology, social activism, politics and government, journalism, sports & entertainment, education, the sciences and the military; and

WHEREAS, VUU Alumni are nationally and internationally recognized, among them are Lawrence Douglas Wilder, first elected African-American governor in the United States of America; Samuel L. Gravely, Jr., first African-American U.S. Naval Officer to command a ship; Wyatt Tee Walker, pastor, civil rights leader and chief of staff for Martin Luther King, Jr.; Leontine Kelly, first African-American bishop in the United Methodist Church; Maxie C. Robinson, Jr.,  first African-American broadcast network  news anchor in the U.S.A.; Henry L. Marsh, civil rights lawyer and first African-American mayor of  the City of Richmond;  and Howard S. Jones, Jr., one of our nation’s most respected inventors in advanced antenna systems; and

WHEREAS, the VUU National Alumni Association was formally incorporated in 2005, and its mission is to reclaim and maintain members, recruit students to VUU, cultivate leadership among the alumni and support the mission of VUU; and

WHEREAS, VUU students, mentored by VUU Alumni, give back to the Richmond community through community service projects, youth mentoring, leadership programs, STEM events, and servant leadership; and

WHEREAS, Virginia Union University has had a lasting footprint in the Richmond community and in the Commonwealth of Virginia for more than 155 years and even expanded its reach and heritage to Norfolk, VA. when in 1935, the Norfolk Unit of Virginia Union University began, now known as Norfolk State University;

NOW, THEREFORE, I, Levar M. Stoney, Mayor of the City of Richmond, Virginia do hereby proclaim October 4, 2020, as “VUU Alumni Day” in the city of Richmond and recognize the significance of October 4th, which in 1899, was the date of the 1st classes held on its current campus, with courses beginning promptly at 8:45 AM.

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