Virginia Union University

Virginia Union University
Virginia Union University
Established 1865
Type Private, HBCU
Religious affiliation American Baptist Churches USA & National Baptist Convention
Endowment $29 million
President Dr. Claude G. Perkins
Students 1,700
Location Richmond, Virginia,
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
Campus Urban, 84 acres (33.99 ha)
Colors Maroon and Steel
Athletics NCAA Division II
Nickname Panthers
Affiliations Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association
Virginia Union University
Location: 1500 N. Lombardy St., Richmond, Virginia, United States
Area: 11 acres (4.5 ha)
Built: 1899
Architect: John H. Coxhead
Architectural style: Richardsonian Romanesque
Governing body: Private
NRHP Reference#:


Added to NRHP: July 26, 1982

Virginia Union University (VUU) is a historically black university located in Richmond, Virginia, United States. 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. VUU's 84-acre (34 ha) campus is located at 1500 North Lombardy Street in Richmond's North Side.



Virginia Union University stated mission is to "1) Provide a nurturing intellectually challenging and spiritually enriching environment for learning; 2) Empower students to develop strong moral values for success; and 3) Develop scholars, leaders, and lifelong learners of a global society."[2]

The University was founded in 1865 to give the newly emancipated freedmen an opportunity for education of the mind in an ethical, religious environment. Excellent teaching and enlightened guidance for all students remain the institution's primary emphases. An 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.

Seeking to empower students for the pursuit of life-long learning, 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.


University presidents
Malcolm MacVicar 1899–1904 First President
Dr. George Rice Hovey 1904–1918 Second President
Mr. William John Clark 1919–1941 Third President
Dr. John Malcus Ellison* 1941–1955 Fourth President
Dr. Samuel Dewitt Proctor 1955–1960 Fifth President
Dr. Thomas Howard Henderson 1960–1970 Sixth President
Dr. Allix Bledsoe James 1970–1979 Seventh President
Dr. David Thomas Shannon 1979–1985 Eighth President
Dr. S. Dallas Simmons 1985–1999 Ninth President
Dr. Bernard Wayne Franklin 1999–2003 Tenth President
Dr. Belinda C. Anderson 2003–2008 Eleventh President
Dr. Claude G. Perkins 2009–present Twelfth President
*first VUU alumnus and African-American to serve as President of the University

The American Baptist Home Mission Society 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, although many had been deprived of formal education and prevented from becoming literate by Southern state laws. Southern states were in upheaval after the war. Both planters and freedmen were trying to figure out what a free labor market would entail.

Members of the American Baptist Home Mission Society (ABHMS) proposed a "National Theological Institute" to educate freedmen wishing to enter the Baptist ministry.[3] Soon, the proposed mission was expanded to offer courses and programs at college, high school and even 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 (1867–97). Famous students there included Dr. Booker T. Washington and Dr. Adam Clayton Powell, Sr. [3]

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 Mrs. 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, D.C. to form Virginia Union University at Richmond.

In 1932, the women's college Hartshorn Memorial College,[4][5] established in Richmond, Virginia in 1883, became a part of Virginia Union University. Storer College, an historically black Baptist college in West Virginia (founded in 1867), merged its endowment with Virginia Union in 1964.


School of Theology

Virginia Union University's Theological training program is called "The Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Theology at Virginia Union University". The school of theology is known for producing preachers such as Dr. James Henry Harris, Dr John W. Kinney. The School is a member of the Washington Theological Consortium.[6]

Student activities


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.[7]

Virginia Union plays basketball and volleyball in the Barco-Stevens Hall (also known as the Belgian Building), which was first built in 1939 as the Belgium Building for the New York World’s Fair. It was listed in the June 20, 2005 edition of the NCAA News as one of 13 athletic facilities around the country which are worthy of “unique” distinction. The Belgium Building, with its stone reliefs of the Belgian Congo on the walls, was awarded to VUU after a competition among the nation’s 23 historically black colleges in 1941. Relocation of the building to its current location on the VUU campus was completed in 1943, and the VUU men’s basketball team played its first game in January, 1947.[8]

Men's Basketball

Under the leadership of head coach Dave Robbins since 1978, the Panthers basketball program has been to the Division II "Final Four" seven times (1980, 1991, 1992, 1996, 1998, 2005, 2006) and have won three NCAA Division II national championship titles (1980, 1992, 2005). The team was the 2006 National runner-up with a record of 30-4. The team has also captured the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association conference championship 20 times.[citation needed]

The school plays in an annual exhibition game with the Division I cross-town rival Virginia Commonwealth University. Coach Robbins' program has produced eight NBA players, including Detroit Pistons star center Ben Wallace, and former New York Knicks power forward Charles Oakley.[9]

Women's Basketball

The women's basketball team won the NCAA Women's Division II Basketball Championship in 1983 [10]

Notable alumni

Name Class year Notability References
James Atkins 2002 Former NFL player
Mamye BaCote 1961 Virginia House of Delegates (2004-present)
Bessye J. Bearden 1900's Journalist and Social Activist; mother of artist Romare Bearden
Simeon Booker 1941 award-winning Journalist and the first African-American Reporter for the Washington Post
Michael Brim 1988 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
Emmett C. Burns, Jr. Maryland House of Delegates (1995-2006)
Terry Davis Former NBA player [9]
Will Downing attended R&B Singer
AJ English Professional Basketball Player [9]
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 [11]
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 National Football League 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-present)
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
Bai T. Moore Liberian author and poet
Delores McQuinn 1976 Virginia House of Delegates (2009-present)
Charles Oakley Professional Basketball Player [9]
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
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
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 Professional Basketball Player, NBA Defensive Player of the Year, NBA Champions; Detroit Pistons [9]
Douglas Wilder 1951 first African-American Governor of Virginia (1990-1994) and Mayor of Richmond (2005-2009)
Donald F. Turner Professor at Harvard Law School


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