True Farr Luck, patron of the arts and longtime friend of VCU, dies at 85

Two women pose in front of a dressing table.
True Farr Luck, right, with granddaughter and namesake, True Harrigan. (Photo courtesy VCU School of the Arts)

True Farr Luck grew up in Roanoke, Virginia, where she attended many of the performances at the Academy of Music, developing a longstanding passion for the arts. It was her first window to the world and laid the groundwork for her patronage of the arts.

Luck was known across the region for her volunteerism and philanthropy with a focus on Richmond area nonprofits, especially in education and health in addition to the arts. She died Monday at the age of 85.

A longtime supporter of Virginia Commonwealth University, she and her husband, Charles S. Luck III, generously served as a catalyst for the family to be engaged across the university. 

“True possessed a deep sense of respect for all members of humanity and I greatly admired her for that quality,” said VCU President Michael Rao, Ph.D. “We are a better society thanks to True’s exemplary volunteerism, generosity and advocacy for so many. I extend heartfelt condolences to her husband, Charles, and their beloved family and friends.”

Michael Rao, Charlie Luck, True Luck.
VCU President Michael Rao speaks with longtime university supporters Charlie and True Luck at the 2014 groundbreaking of the ICA at VCU. (Photo by Lindy Rodman, University Marketing)

Luck played an important volunteer role as an active member of the VCU Institute for Contemporary Art’s campaign committee. Her deep personal involvement and the remarkable $2 million gift she and her husband made provided inspiration for others to follow suit in supporting a key university priority. 

"True was one of the Institute for Contemporary Art's most beloved friends,” said Dominic Asmall Willsdon, executive director of the ICA. “Her warmth and enthusiasm will be fondly remembered. We are honored that the ICA's True Farr Luck Gallery, among the most beautiful contemporary art spaces, will always bear her name."

The third-floor gallery is home to a series of site-specific commissions. Artists create large-scale works to respond to the space’s specific architecture and atmosphere.

Working with Luck on the ICA project was inspirational, said Pam Kiecker Royall, ICA campaign committee co-chair, in 2018. 

“Her personal engagement and leadership have served as a model for all of us who have had the privilege of working alongside her,” Royall said. “The True Farr Luck Gallery — the literal crown on the ICA — is an extraordinary space and the perfect tribute to True, an extraordinary woman.” 

“True’s inimitable spirit and zest for life was contagious,” said Joe Seipel, dean emeritus of the School of the Arts and former interim director of the ICA. “Her enthusiasm and inspired support for the creative community will long be her legacy. True’s mere presence at so many creative events would brighten the room. I will so miss her sweet smile and warm hug.”

"The True Farr Luck Gallery -- the literal crown on the ICA -- is an extraordinary space and the perfect tribute to True, an extraordinary woman.”

A cancer survivor, Luck was devoted to raising awareness of and support for the VCU Massey Cancer Center. In 2015, the couple and their family made a commitment to endow a $1.5 million chair in cancer research at Massey: The Harrigan, Haw and Luck Families Chair in Cancer Research.

Furthermore, True and Charlie Luck provided longtime, generous support for the growth and development of the VCU Rice Rivers Center, providing both financial gifts as well as hardscape materials to maintain and improve the property. Their contributions enriched and enhanced the student experience, leaving an indelible mark on the center.

Other benefactions include support of the Pauley Heart Center and the Black and Gold Academy at the VCU School of Business. 

In 2006 she was named the Richmond Christmas Mother, which she felt was among her highest honors. 

“I feel like I have to pinch myself,” she told the Richmond Times-Dispatch at the time. “I am so excited, so honored.”

In 2016, True and Charlie Luck were awarded the Edward A. Wayne Medal, which honors individuals who have made outstanding contributions or provided exemplary services to VCU. 

Lovingly referred to as “Tootie” by her children and grandchildren, Luck and her husband were married for 64 years.

Luck is survived by her husband, Charles Samuel Luck III; her daughters, Cynthia Luck Haw (and husband Shep) and Terrell Luck Harrigan (and husband Elliott); and her son, Charles "Charlie" Samuel Luck IV (and wife Lisa); and eight grandchildren.

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