Sisters celebrate 90 years of service to VCU

Three sisters stand in front of VCU signage.
(From left to right) Sisters Adriene Hall Johnson, Rhonda Hall and Octavia Hall each celebrated milestone work anniversaries this week. (Photo by Kevin Morley, University Marketing)

Rhonda Hall’s first day of work at Virginia Commonwealth University started a family legacy that she and her two sisters share. This year all three observe milestone anniversaries. Rhonda celebrates 40 years with the university, her sister Adriene Hall Johnson 30 years and their older sister Octavia Hall 20 years – a collective 90 years of service.

The three were among a group of employees recognized at the university’s 48th annual Service Recognition Celebration on Tuesday, honoring faculty and staff for their ongoing service to Virginia Commonwealth University and VCU Health.

Faculty and staff celebrating from five to 55 years of service were recognized at the event, which featured remarks from VCU President Michael Rao, Ph.D.; Nancy Jallo, president of the VCU Faculty Senate; and Saher Randhawa, president of the VCU Staff Senate. 

“Your wisdom, honesty, and commitment to quality and excellence have made VCU/VCUH a great place to live, learn, create, work and heal,” Rao said. “Together we form a strong community. You are an inspiration. Thank you for pushing us all to reach even higher.”

Rhonda’s first day at VCU in May 1979 was similar to working in a television studio, she said of her job in the audiovisual department. She learned a variety of tasks that included how to splice 16-millimeter films to get them ready for distribution to area universities participating in a film cooperative.

“It was fascinating,” said Rhonda, now a senior office and special projects manager with VCU Career Services. 

Adriene wanted to be part of VCU “because of my sister Rhonda. This is where I wanted to be and this is what I shot for,” she said.

She initially started her career on the MCV Campus working in periodicals in the Tompkins-McCaw Library for eight months before moving to the Department of Pharmacy for 8 ½ years as a fiscal technician. She decided to work for Recreational Sports in Student Affairs and after 8 ½ years took a position in the College of Health Professions, Department of Occupational Therapy as the Office Manager effective December 2005.

An avid reader, Adriene was excited when she started working in the library.

“I thought they would have books other than medical journals, books and periodicals, but that was it,” she said. “I would read every day about everything from repairing a cleft palate to new materials for bone replacements. I drove my family crazy talking about what I was learning.”

Octavia applied at VCU because she knew how much her sisters enjoyed their work. “I wanted to get on board,” said Octavia, a senior fiscal technician for the Department of Biology in the College of Humanities and Sciences.

Her first full-time position at VCU was in the School of Dentistry where she helped patients with their payments and scheduling appointments.

“I loved the School of Dentistry. It was a fun place to work,” Octavia said. “Actually, I have loved all of my positions at VCU.”


Service awards


Employees recognized Tuesday included recipients of the Dorris Douglas Budd Award, the President’s Award of Excellence, the President’s Outstanding Achievement Award and the President’s Service Excellence Award:

Dorris Douglas Budd Award (outstanding administrative and support staff who demonstrate exemplary performance and enhance the image and mission of the university and medical center):
Betty Arkwright, Department of Radiology

Award of Excellence
Jason Chan, Technology Services and Support, School of Business 

Outstanding Achievement Award
Heidi Jack, Office of the Provost
Jeff Eastman, Facilities Management Division, Planning & Design

Service Excellence Award
Claire Harding, University Marketing
Daniel Jason, Human Resources

The sisters have changed positions at the university several times during their careers and have enjoyed every opportunity. “What I always say about VCU is it’s a place where you can change careers as often as you like without ever leaving your job. It’s like having the best of both worlds,” Octavia said. “Each time you move to a new position or department, it’s a new opportunity to enhance your own personal growth as well as your career development.”

Growing up in a military family, the siblings have always relied on one another for support. And they do the same at VCU. “When we went to school, we always sought each other out. It was almost second nature that after Rhonda started here we would follow,” Octavia said.

“Everyone we work with at VCU knows how close we are,” Adriene said.

Over the years, the sisters have seen the university grow and get “consistently better,” Adriene said. “Classified staff and faculty work together so well. You can reach out to people if you have a question, or a need, and they will help you. It feels good when you work in a place like that.”

Their 20, 30 and 40 years on campus have gone by quickly, they said. “This university has a pulse and once you are in it, you are caught up in it. And you love it,” Octavia said. “I will probably have to be kicked out of this university. One day they’ll come to me say, ‘Excuse me old lady, you have to go.’”

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