$2M gift to VCU College of Humanities and Sciences will support students, faculty and create a science communications fund

VCU circle outside student commons.
Patricia T. Kirkpatrick, a retired Richmond native who now lives in Northern Virginia, made a $2M gift on behalf of herself and her late husband, David W. Kirkpatrick, to support students, faculty and create a science communications fund. (File photo)

A $2 million gift to support the College of Humanities and Sciences at Virginia Commonwealth University will establish a need-based student scholarship and support faculty professional development. The gift also will create a fund to train science majors in verbal and written communications, presentation and interpersonal skills to improve academic and career outcomes.

Patricia T. Kirkpatrick, a retired Richmond native who now lives in Northern Virginia, made the gift on behalf of herself and her late husband, David W. Kirkpatrick, to support the College of Humanities and Sciences, which houses VCU’s core disciplines in the natural sciences, social sciences and humanities, and is home to two schools, 19 departments and programs and four institutes or centers. Nearly 60% of VCU undergraduates have at least one major in the college.

Kirkpatrick said she has always believed that “education is the great equalizer” and that expanding access to higher education will be key in making the world a better place.

“My husband and I, we didn’t have any children, so I was musing over what to do with the estate,” she said. “And in my opinion, we are headed so far backwards [as a country] that it’s hard for me to believe. We’re fighting battles on science, on civil rights, on human rights, on women’s rights that were won when I was a child. We’re going back over history and fighting them again. … So I decided [expanding access to education] is what I wanted to do, and I hope it will change people’s lives.”

An initial gift of $50,000 will establish the David W. and Patricia T. Kirkpatrick Scholarship, a need-based scholarship for students in good academic standing who are majors in the College of Humanities and Sciences. A preference will be given to students who have an interest in serving or bettering the lives of underrepresented minorities, such as people identifying as African American, American Indian, Alaska Native, Latinx or LGBTQIA+, or who have interest in serving or bettering the lives of women. Awarding of the scholarship will begin this fall.

We’re fighting battles on science, on civil rights, on human rights, on women’s rights that were won when I was a child. We’re going back over history and fighting them again. … So I decided [expanding access to education] is what I wanted to do, and I hope it will change people’s lives.

A $1.95 million estate gift will be used to increase the Kirkpatrick Scholarship and to create the endowed David W. and Patricia T. Kirkpatrick Faculty Fund and the endowed David W. and Patricia T. Kirkpatrick Science Communications Fund.

The Kirkpatrick Faculty Fund will be used for professional development and incentives to increase the recruitment, retention and advancement of College of Humanities and Sciences faculty. The fund could provide support to promote diversity and inclusion in the highest academic ranks, and to support VCU’s Eminent Scholars program that recognizes midcareer faculty and rewards them for scholarly contributions to their discipline, the college and VCU.

The Kirkpatrick Science Communications Fund will provide funding for curriculum development and class instruction for students in science majors to learn verbal and written communications, presentation and interpersonal skills to improve academic and career outcomes.

“Words of gratitude are hardly enough to recognize Pat’s support,” said Don Young, Ph.D., interim dean of the College of Humanities and Sciences. “As we seek to balance access, affordability, and excellence,  having scholarship support for our students is vital. Pat’s recent gift to establish a scholarship for College of Humanities and Sciences students who have interest in serving or bettering the lives of underrepresented minorities and women will transform the lives of not only the student recipients but also those who are on the receiving end of the students’ work.”

“That gift alone would have changed numerous lives,” Young said. “Yet, Pat also made a commitment to support our faculty’s professional development, as well as instruction for students in science majors to learn clear communication skills to improve academic and career outcomes. We are privileged to have her and David’s name associated with the College of Humanities and Sciences.”

About VCU and VCU Health

Virginia Commonwealth University is a major, urban public research university with national and international rankings in sponsored research. Located in downtown Richmond, VCU enrolls more than 31,000 students in 217 degree and certificate programs in the arts, sciences and humanities. Thirty-eight of the programs are unique in Virginia, many of them crossing the disciplines of VCU’s 11 schools and three colleges. The VCU Health brand represents the VCU health sciences academic programs, the VCU Massey Cancer Center and the VCU Health System, which comprises VCU Medical Center (the only academic medical center in the region), Community Memorial Hospital, Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU, MCV Physicians and Virginia Premier Health Plan. For more, please visit www.vcu.edu and vcuhealth.org.