Alumni Spotlight: Shelia Cross (B.S.’77) and Adrienne Cross Ward (B.S.’82)
Sisters Shelia Cross (B.S.’77) and Adrienne Cross Ward (B.S.’82) both chose VCU for its urban campus environment, just far enough from their home in Hampton Roads to be independent, but close enough to stay connected to family. Both Shelia and Adrienne majored in psychology.
For the last several years, they have hosted an annual cookout in Tidewater, where they both live, for alumni and friends they made through VCU. Attendance grows each year, and so has the alumni camaraderie in Hampton Roads, thanks to their commitment to creating a space for VCU alumni to connect, reminisce and celebrate their successes. We spoke to Shelia about her VCU experience and the pair’s longstanding event.
How did VCU prepare you for what you do and who you are today?
VCU prepared me academically and socially. I became engulfed in my coursework, as that was the purpose for attending the school. However, I discovered that it was also important to bond and connect with positive social outlets, and the school offered numerous options to consider. I joined Black Awakening, the gospel choir. This tapped into my spiritual foundation and I enjoyed the creative outlet.
During the latter two years, I served as a resident assistant, placing me in a leadership role among my peers. Both were positive experiences that helped shape my character. Courses within my academic study required that I participate in practicums, so I was able to gain work experience in my field of study.
After graduating I found employment in the criminal justice arena and the field of social work and later became an executive director of a nonprofit organization. I am now retired but continue to work as a private contractor for the state of Virginia and I facilitate groups on healthy living.
Tell us about the cookouts. What inspired you and Adrienne to start hosting them? What excites you about them?
During the years at VCU, we both developed friendships that [we] sustained through the years and across distance. Many of my friends became Adrienne’s and vice versa. In addition, we met other VCU graduates through our friends. One attendee is the first African American to earn a doctorate degree in art history. Another participant is a band director who travels from Dallas, Texas. Several others have careers in the medical profession. Despite our various occupations, we share a common love for our alma mater. Each year our attendance grows and we form more lasting friendships.