VCU Committee on Commemoration and Memorials: Public Comment
July 27, 2020
The VCU Committee on Commemorations and Memorials has opened a public comment period on its recommended actions to commemorate or decommemorate events, people and places associated with the university. While not required by university policy, we believe that public comment is an important mechanism for the university community to be informed about actions intended to critically engage the cultural, historical, physical and social landscapes of our university. This level of accountability, openness and transparency is an essential step toward reconciling our collective past, present and future.
It is important to note that the public comment is not a poll or a vote. It is a voice. Stated another way, in this public comment, the voices of our first-generation and limited-wealth students are equal to our prominent scholars and major supporters; as are the voices of our employees from across the world and our legacy Virginians. It is not always easy to listen to voices that may differ from your beliefs, ideas and perspectives. But, as an institution of higher learning, we believe it is important to provide you with the context and opportunity to do so here.
The first round of public comment began on July 13th and concluded on July 24th. Upon review of the public comments -- in excess of 2,000 unique statements -- we elected to extend the public comment period to a total of 30 days (August 14, 2020 at 5p.m.). In this second round of public comment, we have forwarded our invitation to additional stakeholder groups who we learned may not have been included in initial university communications to include many alumni, board and foundation members, and other key constituent groups affiliated with the university.
During the first round, we also heard from a few respondents who requested more information beyond the brief background provided on each subject. We respectfully encourage you to conduct your own research (e.g., Google, VCU Libraries) related to each of these commemorations and decommemorations and to form your own conclusions before commenting. We are very interested in what you think about your findings.
Concomitantly, we have not provided our committee’s justification for recommended actions in this particular medium. This will be presented elsewhere at a later time. Nonetheless, we have and will continue to base our recommendations to commemorate or memorialize, as articulated in university policy, on the recognition of significant persons, places or events that relate to the history of the institution or the physical area now encompassing the institution; whereas recommendations to decommemorate consider whether a recognized person, place or event represents an inherent contradiction to the mission and/or values of the institution, information obtained negates the accomplishments cited as the basis for the commemoration, or the commemoration injures the reputation of the university or the Commonwealth of Virginia.
The Committee on Commemorations and Memorials also considers whether existing commemorations and memorials (honorifics) serve to legitimize an historical era, event, person or place that is in/consistent with what has been discovered or learned in later years; and whether the public acknowledgement and display of commemorations enhances or disrupts the educational, healing and workplace experiences of our diverse population of students, patients and employees. In either case, the university will form workgroups to plan and execute commemorative or decommemorative activities, which includes, if applicable, documentation of all decommemorated items/places before their removal and the placement of these documentation resources in the VCU Libraries where they will be available to the university and community for educational and related purposes.
All comments will be reviewed by the committee and publicly viewable, but no personally identifiable information will be associated with them.
Thank you in advance for your important contributions.
RECOMMENDED ACTION: The committee recommends the de-commemoration and removal of the plaque outside the Baruch Auditorium on the MCV campus.
BACKGROUND: Philanthropist Bernard Baruch gave $100,000 to the Medical College of Virginia (MCV) to support the renovation of the Egyptian Building in 1939 to honor his father, Simon Baruch. The elder Baruch graduated from MCV in 1862 and went on to serve as a surgeon in the confederate army. The plaque in the lobby outside the auditorium lists Baruch’s accomplishments and mentions his confederate service. There is an additional plaque at the entrance to the building stating MCV’s role in the Civil War.Submit a comment - Baruch Auditorium
RECOMMENDED ACTION: The committee recommends the de-commemoration and removal of the name and all associated mentions and references to the Dooley Hospital.
BACKGROUND: This building no longer stands but the portico/entrance was retained adjacent to the Egyptian Building with the name etched in the limestone. Dooley served in the confederate army.Submit a comment - Dooley Hospital
Fitzhugh Lee Monument
RECOMMENDED ACTION: The committee recommends petitioning the city of Richmond to de-commemorate and remove the Fitzhugh Lee monument in Monroe Park (already in progress by the city).
BACKGROUND: In 1911, the 7th Army Corps Veterans Association and Auxiliary placed a memorial marker in Monroe Park for General Fitzhugh Lee, the nephew of Robert E. Lee. Fitzhugh Lee served as a general in both the Civiland Spanish-American Wars. He also served as the 40th governor of the Commonwealth.Submit a comment - Fitzhugh Lee Monument
RECOMMENDED ACTION: The committee recommends the de-commemoration and removal of the name and all associated mentions and references to the Ginter House.
BACKGROUND: This building is named for Lewis Ginter who served in the confederate army. He built the home and the name was retained when the building was acquired by RPI.Submit a comment - Ginter House
RECOMMENDED ACTION: The committee recommends the removal of the name "Harrison" from Harrison House.
BACKGROUND: The committee recommends the removal of the name "Harrison" from Harrison House. This action clears the way for VCU's Department of African American Studies to engage in efforts to commemorate and name the building.Submit a comment - Harrison House
RECOMMENDED ACTION: The committee recommends petitioning the city of Richmond to de-commemorate and remove the Howitzer statue near Park and Harrison Streets (already in progress by the city).
BACKGROUND: In 1892, the Richmond Howitzer Association erected a monument dedicated to the Richmond Howitzers Artillery Battalion. Artist and former Howitzer member William Ludwell Sheppard created the statue of the artillery man.Submit a comment - Howitzer Statue
Jefferson Davis Memorial Chapel
RECOMMENDED ACTION: The committee recommends the de-commemoration, permanent closure, and removal of four plaques that reference Jefferson Davis and Kathryn Wittichen in and around West Hospital on the MCV campus.
BACKGROUND: In 1960, the MCV Board of Visitors accepted a gift of approximately $30,000 from the United Daughters of the Confederacy to create a chapel as a tribute to confederate president Jefferson Davis and for use by the MCV community. MCV dedicated the chapel on November 12, 1960. Initially it included a confederate battle flag which was removed a few years ago. The chapel includes several plaques in honor of Davis and the president of the Richmond United Daughters of the Confederacy. There is also a plaque in the lobby of West Hospital directing visitors to the 17th floor to the chapel.Submit a comment - Jefferson Davis Memorial Chapel
Joseph Bryan Statue
RECOMMENDED ACTION: The committee recommends petitioning the city of Richmond to de-commemorate and remove the Joseph Bryan statue in Monroe Park (already in progress by the city).
BACKGROUND: This is a statue of Joseph Bryan, the Richmond newspaper publisher and philanthropist. During the Civil War, Bryan initially served with the Richmond Howitzers and then with Colonel John Mosby’s cavalry brigade.Submit a comment - Joseph Bryan Statue
RECOMMENDED ACTION: The committee recommends the de-commemoration and removal of the Alexander Stephens plaque and bust of Hunter McGuire from McGuire Hall.
BACKGROUND: In 1912, the University College of Medicine (UCM) opened a new instructional building at the corner of 11th and Clay Streets. The college’s former building on that site burned in 1910. That former building had served as the Richmond residence of confederate vice president Alexander Stephens during his brief stay in Richmond during the Civil War. At the time of the new building’s opening, the Confederate Memorial Literary Society placed a plaque on the exterior of the building noting this fact. MCV acquired the building in 1913 when it merged with the University College of Medicine.
The new building was called the “new school” or the UCM building until December 1927 when the MCV Board of Visitors named it “McGuire Hall” in honor of Hunter Holmes McGuire, the founder of the University College of Medicine. McGuire, who served as professor of surgery at MCV, was the medical director of Stonewall Jackson’s second corps during the Civil War. Inside of McGuire Hall on the stairway landing between the first and second floors is a bust of McGuire sculpted by John Brodnax, a former MCV professor of anatomy. McGuire’s son, Dr. Stuart McGuire served as dean, president and a member of the Board of Visitors for MCV.Submit a comment - McGuire Hall
RECOMMENDED ACTION: The committee recommends the de-commemoration and removal of the name and all associated mentions and references to McGuire Hall.
BACKGROUND: This hall was named in honor of Hunter Holmes McGuire by the Medical College of Virginia in 1927. It is the former University College of Medicine Building (a separate medical school that merged with MCV in 1913) which was founded by Hunter Holmes McGuire, who served as a medical director in the confederate army.Submit a comment - McGuire Hall name
MCV Alumni House
RECOMMENDED ACTION: The committee recommends petitioning VCU Health to consider the de-commemoration and removal of a plaque commemorating the work of Matthew Fontaine Maury from the MCV Alumni House; as well as the name and all associated mentions and references to the Maupin-Maury House, now known as the MCV Alumni House.
BACKGROUND: The present MCV Alumni House was constructed with various architectural features from the original Maupin-Maury House formerly located on the south side of Clay Street where the Ambulatory Care Center is today. MCV Founder Socrates Maupin built the house in 1846. When he left Richmond to accept a position at the University of Virginia, he sold the house to his cousin Robert Maupin. During the Civil War, Matthew Fontaine Maury stayed at the house and conducted experiments with the underwater torpedo that he was developing for the confederate navy. The Confederate Memorial Literacy Society placed a plaque on the house in 1910 to commemorate Maury’s work. This plaque and an additional new plaque were placed on the new alumni house in 1993.Submit a comment - MCV Alumni House
RECOMMENDED ACTION: The committee recommends the commemoration and adding the name Murry DePillars to a soon-to-be-identified School of the Arts building.
BACKGROUND: Murry DePillars was dean of VCU's School of the Arts from 1976 until 1995, having served the previous five years as assistant dean. He was awarded the title of Professor Emeritus upon retirement and received the Presidential Medallion, honoring extraordinary commitment in learning and commitment to the mission of VCU. DePillars died at his Richmond, VA home on May 31, 2008.Submit a comment - Murry DePillars Name
RECOMMENDED ACTION: The committee recommends the de-commemoration and removal of the Tompkins-McCaw Library plaque and the portrait of John Syng Dorsey Cullen.
BACKGROUND: At the suggestion of MCV Comptroller William F. Tompkins, the MCV Board of Visitors named the college library in honor of five members of two Virginia families in March of 1950. The library is named for Christopher Tompkins, J. McCaw Tompkins, Sally Tompkins, James B. McCaw, and Walter Drew McCaw. James McCaw served as the organizer and commandant of Chimborazo Hospital during the Civil War. Sally Tompkins ran a private hospital in Richmond and received an army commission from the confederate government. A plaque in the vestibule of the library lists the five namesakes and a brief description of their accomplishments and contributions to the college.
Inside the Tompkins-McCaw Library, on public display, are portraits of a number of faculty members who served the confederacy in a variety of capacities. One of these portraits is of John Syng Dorsey Cullen, who is depicted in his confederate uniform.Submit a comment - Tompkins-McCaw Library
RECOMMENDED ACTION: The committee recommends the de-commemoration and removal of the name "Tompkins-McCaw" and all associated mentions and references from the Tompkins-McCaw Library.
BACKGROUND: In 1950, the library was named for five members of the Tompkins and McCaw families. One of the namesakes, Sally Tompkins, operated a hospital in Richmond during the Civil War and received a formal commission in the confederate army. Another namesake, James B. McCaw, served as commandant of the Chimborazo army hospital located at the east end of Broad Street.Submit a comment - Tompkins-McCaw Library name
W.C. Wickham Monument
RECOMMENDED ACTION: The committee recommends petitioning the city of Richmond to de-commemorate and remove the W.C. Wickham monument in Monroe Park (already in progress by the city).
BACKGROUND: Inside the park there are three monuments to individuals associated with the confederacy. In 1891, the employees of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad erected a statue of Williams Carter Wickham sculpted by Edward Valentine. Wickham served as a confederate general, state senator, and vice-president of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad.Submit a comment -W.C. Wickham Monument
Wood Memorial Building
RECOMMENDED ACTION: The committee recommends de-commemoration and removal of the name and all associated mentions and references to the Wood Memorial Building.
BACKGROUND: This building is named for Judson B. Wood and his wife. Wood, a Richmond dentist, served as a private in the confederate army. He gave MCV one of its first major gifts that helped fund construction on campus including the Wood building.Submit a comment - Wood Memorial Building
President’s Committee on Confederate Commemoration
Established August 2017
John Kneebone, Ph.D. - Co-chair
Hannah M. Cameron - Co-chair
Kevin Allison, Ph.D.
Melanie Buffington, Ph.D.
Brian Daugherty, Ph.D.
Karah Gunther, J.D., M.H.A.
Larry Little, M.B.A
Kathryn Shively, Ph.D.
Jacob Belue, J.D.
Nicole Turner, Ph.D.
Brandi Summers, Ph.D.
VCU Committee on Commemoration and Memorials
Established May 2019
Aashir Nasim, Ph.D. - Chair
Melanie Buffington, Ph.D.
Matt Conrad, J.D.
Jay Davenport, CFRE
Breanna Louise Harmon
Nancy Jallo, Ph.D., RNC, FNP-BC, WHNP-BC, CNS, FAAN
Lydia Johnson, MD
Kathryn Shively, Ph.D.
Meredith Weiss, Ph.D.