The university takes its founding date of 1838 from the year the Medical College of Virginia was created as the medical department of Hampden-Sydney College. MCV became independent in 1854 and state-affiliated in 1860.
Virginia Commonwealth University’s Monroe Park Campus began in 1917 as the Richmond School of Social Work and Public Health. In 1925, it became the Richmond division of the College of William and Mary; and in 1939, its name was changed to Richmond Professional Institute. It separated from William and Mary in 1962 to become an independent state institution.
In 1968, Gov. Mills E. Godwin Jr. signed VCU into existence, based on recommendations set forth in a 1967 report developed by a legislative commission led by Edward A. Wayne Sr., president of the Richmond Federal Reserve Bank.
Wayne was named vice-rector of the first Board of Visitors of VCU, and the university’s Wayne Medal honors individuals who have made outstanding contributions or provided exemplary service to VCU.
The full text of the Wayne Commission Report, explaining the development of Virginia Commonwealth University and the rationale for bringing together the Medical College of Virginia and Richmond Professional Institute, is available through VCU Libraries’ Digital Collections website.
MCV and RPI merged to become VCU in 1968 and it is now the most comprehensive urban university in the state.
To learn more about the history of Virginia Commonwealth University, view the James Branch Cabell Library Special Collections and Archives.
To learn more about the history of health care at MCV, view the Special Collections and Archives at Tompkins-McCaw Library for the Health Sciences.
History of VCU presidents
Warren W. Brandt, Ph.D. 1969-1974
Warren W. Brandt, Ph.D., served as president of VCU from June 1969 through October 1974. He was selected from a field of 200 candidates to lead the new university, formed when RPI and MCV merged.
During Dr. Brandt’s tenure, 32 degree programs were added, and the School of Allied Health Professions and the School of Community Services were established. In addition, more than $20 million of new construction was completed or under way on both campuses, including the James Branch Cabell Library, Rhoads Hall, the School of Business building, the Larrick Student Center and a large addition to Sanger Hall.
T. Edward Temple 1975-1977
T. Edward Temple succeeded Dr. Brandt, serving from 1975 until his sudden death in 1977. Temple joined the university as vice president for development and university relations in 1973 and chaired the three-man committee that briefly ran the school after Brandt’s retirement in October 1974. Temple died of a heart attack just 15 months into his administration. Before joining state government, he had been city manager for the Virginia cities of Danville and Hopewell. Temple’s understanding of the commonwealth led him to develop a “traveling road show” in an effort to interpret the school to the public, increasing enrollment and support throughout the state.
Edmund F. Ackell, M.D., D.M.D. 1978-1990
Edmund F. Ackell, M.D., D.M.D., led VCU from 1978 to 1990. He was the first VCU president to have experience in the field of health care as well as in education and administration.
Dr. Ackell’s contributions include leading a major overhaul of the university’s governance system and administrative structure; instituting a new system for both short-range and long-range university planning; establishing faculty convocation and a new set of faculty tenure and promotion guidelines; and establishing greater access to the community by supporting the use of the university’s research and educational resources to meet social needs.
Eugene P. Trani, Ph.D. 1990-2009
After a national search, Eugene P. Trani, Ph.D., came to VCU from his position as Vice President of Academic Affairs for the 15-institution University of Wisconsin system with 25 years of experience as an administrator and historian.
During Dr. Trani’s tenure, VCU’s enrollment increased to 32,077 students in 2008 — the largest of any university in Virginia; the university experienced a 200 percent increase in freshman applications; international enrollment increased by 170 percent to more than 1,500 students; VCU established 14 international partnership universities; and VCU and the VCU Health System have undertaken or been authorized to undertake more than $2.2 billion in capital construction and renovation projects.
Michael Rao, Ph.D. 2009-present
Michael Rao, Ph.D., became the fifth president of VCU and president of the VCU Health System on July 1, 2009, after a national search. Prior to joining VCU, he served as president of Central Michigan University for nine years.
Rao’s priorities as VCU president are focused on strengthening the university’s national academic profile among research universities, helping to ensure student success, increasing sponsored research, diversifying the university’s resource base, including a major focus on fundraising, and expanding alumni engagement. Most importantly, he is committed to enhancing the student living and learning environment and advancing interdisciplinary collaborations to support the university’s research mission and to support teaching, learning and patient care.
In his capacity as president of the VCU Health System, Rao is committed to furthering cancer research, treatment, prevention, and control, as well as bolstering VCU’s historic excellence as a tertiary care center in a range of areas including children’s health, women’s health, cardiovascular disease treatment and prevention, neuroscience, transplant, orthopedics, and digestive health.