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Five decades after the Wayne Commission created VCU, the university community will celebrate and reflect at a daylong symposium Nov 30.

VCU at 50: Symposium to explore university’s history since MCV-RPI merger

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Higher education leaders, faculty experts and notable Virginia Commonwealth University alumni will gather Nov. 30 at a daylong symposium marking the 50th anniversary of the merger that created VCU.

Commemorating History: Challenges and Opportunities will examine the 1968 merger of the Medical College of Virginia and Richmond Professional Institute. The symposium will explore how VCU has evolved during the past five decades, said VCU President Michael Rao, Ph.D.

“When the Wayne Commission formed [VCU] in 1968, they merged two institutions that had long focused on serving the public good,” Rao said. “This year presents an important opportunity to celebrate and reflect on our 50 years as one institution.”

The symposium also will serve as a forum to discuss the university’s “complicated and difficult history and how we commemorate on campus,” Rao said, alluding to the complexity of the MCV-RPI merger, the recently completed audit of Confederate symbols that exist on VCU’s campuses and the larger discussions at VCU about the ways in which history is and will be commemorated.

Plenary and keynote symposium sessions will be livestreamed at Alumni, students, faculty, staff, friends and community members are invited to register and attend the symposium, which will include sessions featuring Eugene Trani, Ph.D., president emeritus of VCU and VCU Health System; Beverly Warren, Ph.D., Ed.D., president and CEO of Kent State University and former VCU provost; and Edward Ayers, Ph.D., president emeritus of the University of Richmond.

A full list of events can be found on the Office of the President website. For questions or special accommodations, email

A glance at the keynote and plenary sessions:

A university in the city: 50 years since the Wayne Commission

8:45-9:45 a.m., University Student Commons, Commonwealth Ballroom, 907 Floyd Ave.

A panel exploring the development of VCU as a resource and partner in understanding and responding to the challenges and needs of its urban community. Featuring panelists:

- John Kneebone, Ph.D., associate professor, VCU Department of History

- Jodi Koste, archivist and head, VCU Tompkins-McCaw Library Special Collections and Archives

- Eugene Trani, Ph.D., president emeritus, VCU and VCU Health System 

Moderated by Bill Martin, director, the Valentine museum 

Conversations across generations at VCU

10-11 a.m., University Student Commons, Commonwealth Ballroom

A range of challenges and social tensions are playing out on American college campuses, in many ways not unlike the late 1960s when VCU opened. This discussion will explore similarities and differences in the times and student experiences at VCU. Featuring panelists:

- Chaz A. Barracks, doctoral candidate, VCU Media, Art, and Text Ph.D. program

- William B. Downey, president and CEO, Riverside Health System

- Elena Fernandez, Pharm.D., doctoral candidate, VCU Pharmaceutical Sciences Ph.D. program

- Charles L. McLeod, Ed.D., education consultant and motivational speaker 

Moderated by Liz Canfield, Ph.D., associate chair, assistant professor and undergraduate adviser, VCU Department of Gender, Sexuality and Women's Studies

Commemoration on campus conversation

2:30-3:30 p.m., James Branch Cabell Library, Lecture Hall, Room 303, and Jonah L. Larrick Student Center, Court End Ballroom 

Universities across the country, including VCU, are increasingly engaging with their difficult histories and with the ways in which difficult and exclusionary histories are represented on campus. This discussion explores the ways in which history is and will be commemorated on VCU's campus. Learn more 

Keynote: Statewide and national perspectives on commemorating history within the academy

4-5 p.m., University Student Commons, Commonwealth Ballroom

A conversation among current and former university presidents exploring the ways in which universities are examining the commemoration of difficulty histories on American campuses. Featuring panelists:

- Edward L. Ayers, Ph.D., Tucker-Boatwright Professor of the Humanities and president emeritus, University of Richmond

- Michael Rao, Ph.D., president, VCU and VCU Health System

- Beverly Warren, Ph.D., Ed.D., president and CEO, Kent State University, and former VCU provost and vice president for academic affairs