VCU honors longtime supporter Kenneth Wright

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Longtime Virginia Commonwealth University supporter Kenneth Wright received VCU’s highest honor on Friday in a special ceremony in the atrium at the School of Engineering.

Wright, who has provided leadership and financial support to VCU, along with his wife, Dianne, for many years, received an honorary doctorate from the university. VCU President Michael Rao, Ph.D., said VCU has been transformed over the past two decades by people like Wright, whom Rao called “one of the architects – the man who helped design our future.”

Wright is the president and owner of Wright Properties and Wright Investments. He is the retired chairman of Rent-A-Car Company, Inc., an Avis franchise which he operated for more than 45 years.

Wright has served as a trustee of the VCU School of Engineering Foundation since 2000 and previously served on the School of Engineering Industrial Advisory Council. Mrs. Wright is serving her second term on the Massey Cancer Center Advisory Board. Mr. and Mrs. Wright have created the Dianne Harris Wright Professorship in gynecologic oncology; created a Cardiology Scholars endowment within the School of Medicine; gave the initial gift to create the Trani Scholars Program in 2006; and made a $10.5 million gift to the School of Engineering Foundation which was recognized in naming the new microelectronics lab the C. Kenneth and Dianne Harris Wright Virginia Microelectronics Consortium. In 1999, the Wrights donated the building which was the headquarters of his business and is now renovated to be the new home to the VCU Brandcenter. This gift was part of the catalyst for the Monroe Park Campus Addition and expanding VCU across Belvidere Street.

Wright said his and his wife’s relationship with VCU has allowed them to meet “some of the most generous and hard-working people we’ve ever known.” He grinned broadly when Anne J.G. “Panny” Rhodes, rector of the VCU Board of Visitors, noted that the degree ensured that Wright would be “forever a VCU Ram.”

“There is nothing more meaningful to us right now than our affiliation with VCU,” he said.

Sheldon Retchin, M.D., CEO of the VCU Health System and vice president for Health Sciences, noted that if you pushed a map of the VCU and VCU Medical Center campuses together and threw a dart at it you would be sure to hit something that the Wrights had supported in a significant way. Wright, he said, had demonstrated “remarkable generosity and love” to the VCU community.

Arthur Hurtado, president of the School of Engineering Foundation Board of Trustees, said Wright has “touched the lives of so many people, some known to him, but so many, too, that he did not know.”

Rao said Wright’s benevolence has been inspiring.

“I have seldom in my life seen someone who takes more pleasure out of seeing an institution and the people within it advance – who derives satisfaction in life out of the success of other people,” Rao said. “He is, quite frankly, not only a man of grace and dedication, but also comes possessed of that rarest of traits: real wisdom.”

Rhodes said Wright is emblematic of the graduates that VCU is producing, standing “for everything that we value at VCU.”

VCU students, she said, “roll up their sleeves and put their intellect to action. They are successful in school, and after they graduate, in their jobs. And most of all, they give back. It’s part of who we are. We want our students to be leaders – in their professions, in their communities. We want them to make life better for everyone around them. Just like Ken.”

Wright said that the honorary degree was an unequaled honor for him. During his 50-year business career, he accumulated awards that he appreciated but “nothing on the level that I’m receiving today.”