VCU Rice Rivers Center receives $2.3 million gift from longtime benefactress Inger Rice

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Inger Rice has made a $2.3 million gift to support the Virginia Commonwealth University Inger and Walter Rice Center for Environmental Life Sciences to fund a multibuilding overnight lodge and to contribute to the construction of a research laboratory on the property.

A $1.8 million portion of the gift will finance the construction of the overnight facility, which will have up to 30 beds where students and researchers will stay while they work at the living laboratory in Charles City County, Virginia. The other $500,000 will go toward the $6.7 million campaign to fund construction of a state-of-the-science building that will enable the scientists at the center to conduct all of their research and analysis on-site. Both buildings will be funded entirely by private resources.

“You can see it in a dream, but sometimes dreams don’t come true,” Rice said. “Now I will see the reality.”

For more than a decade, Rice has been turning her dream of housing a premier environmental research center at VCU into a reality.

In 2000, Rice gave 342 acres of land along the lower James River to VCU as a location for the university to build an environmental research and education center. In the subsequent 15 years, Rice has continued to financially support the center. In 2007, she donated $2 million for construction of the 4,900-square-foot Walter L. Rice Education Building, which is the first LEED platinum-certified building in Virginia. In 2009, Rice donated $1.2 million in recognition of the beginning of the tenure of VCU President Michael Rao, Ph.D., at the university and to establish the Inger Rice Endowment Fund, which supports maintenance of the center’s grounds and the education building.

“The internationally recognized environmental research conducted at the VCU Rice Rivers Center would not be possible without the continuous generous support from Mrs. Rice,” Rao said. “This latest gift will allow for VCU to continue to attract the country’s best scientists to our state-of-the-art facility, which will further enhance the quality of research and education at the center.”

Current research at the center includes highly recognized programs focused on analyzing water quality in the James River and helping to restore the federally endangered Atlantic Sturgeon in the river. The VCU Rice Rivers Center is also home to one of the most significant wetland restoration projects on the East Coast. The center stands as a leader in river ecosystem science, addressing pressing water resource issues vital to society and the natural environment.

“Mrs. Rice has again raised the bar on the research and education opportunities at VCU,” said Leonard Smock, Ph.D., interim vice provost, VCU Life Sciences, and director, VCU Rice Rivers Center. “With the lodge, students and scientists will be able to stay overnight at the center for days-to-weeks, becoming immersed in the science being conducted at the center and in the many classes and outdoor educational programs offered by center faculty and staff. We are very grateful for all that Mrs. Rice has done and continues to do for the VCU Rice Rivers Center.”