Inger Rice Lodge

VCU Rice Rivers Center celebrates new Inger Rice Lodge, receives $1M fundraising challenge

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The VCU Rice Rivers Center celebrated a ribbon-cutting ceremony on an overnight lodge for visiting researchers Friday. Philanthropist Inger Rice donated $1.8 million to the $2.3 million lodge, which was named in her honor. Rice has given more than $6 million toward various Rice Rivers Center efforts since an initial gift in 2000 of 342 acres to develop the center on the banks of the lower James River in Charles City County. 

The overnight lodge will allow the Rice Rivers Center to host top international ecologists conducting on-site research or multiday fieldwork excursions. The lodge can accommodate up to 22 visiting researchers, students and other groups to stay at the center for days or weeks.

Proper lodging will greatly improve the Rice Rivers Center’s ability to secure external funding for summer student programs that require overnight facilities. Building elements include bunk rooms and private sleeping accommodations as well as kitchenette, dining and meeting spaces.

As part of the ceremony, VCU President Michael Rao announced a $1 million challenge grant from the Mary Morton Parsons Foundation to help fund the construction of a research laboratory at the Rice Rivers Center. The foundation will award the grant if VCU can raise $1 million from other sources in a year.

Both the lodge and research facility are critical to the center’s research enterprise and its collaborations with other institutions.

“The next 12 months will be full of activity, and I look forward to reaching our goal,” Rao said. “The completed labs will be a wonderful tool for Rice Rivers Center researchers to discover more about river ecosystems, watersheds and the conservation of species living in and around rivers and watersheds.” 

Construction on the 14,000-square-foot research facility — which will include laboratory, office and meeting spaces — will begin once the grant is received and is estimated to cost close to $6 million. Scientists and students from VCU and collaborating institutions will have access to a state-of-the-art building, including analytical labs and research facilities, along the tidal James River.

In addition to the Mary Morton Parsons Foundation challenge grant, funds raised through the Rice Rivers Center’s efforts as part of the Make It Real Campaign for VCU include two major contributions at the $1-million level from both the Cabell Foundation and WestRock (formerly Mead Westvaco) and $500,000 from Inger Rice.

“With the opening of the Inger Rice Lodge and the announcement of the Mary Morton Parsons challenge grant to help us complete construction of the research facility, the physical infrastructure needed to achieve the vision set out by the gift of this property by Mrs. Rice is a reality,” said Catherine Dahl, director of development and special projects for the Rice Rivers Center.

Gregory Garman, Ph.D., director of the Rice Rivers Center, said the challenge was an invaluable contribution to the work of the center.

“Meeting this challenge grant will be a critical step for VCU and its partners to conduct relevant, river-focused research and to train the next generation of environmental science professionals,” Garman said.