Historical marker commemorating 1917 origin of VCU’s Monroe Park campus dedicated
By Brian McNeil
University Public Affairs
A state historical marker commemorating the origins of Virginia Commonwealth University’s Monroe Park Campus was unveiled Wednesday outside Founder’s Hall at a ceremony attended by state and university officials, alumni and community members. The marker, issued by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, marks the 1917 founding of the Richmond School of Social Work and Public Health, which later became the Richmond Professional Institute and ultimately merged with the Medical College of Virginia to create VCU. The full text of the marker reads:
Richmond Professional Institute
A group of community leaders founded the Richmond School of Social Economy, later known as the Richmond School of Social Work and Public Health, in 1917. Initial instruction was in the fields of social work and nursing, but the curriculum soon expanded. In 1925 the school became the Richmond division of the College of William and Mary and moved to its permanent home here at 827 West Franklin Street. It adopted the name Richmond Professional Institute (RPI) in 1939. RPI separated from William and Mary in 1962 and operated as an independent state institution before merging with the Medical College of Virginia in 1968 to form Virginia Commonwealth University.
At the dedication ceremony, VCU President Michael Rao, Ph.D., said the university continues to build upon the founders’ vision to address existing and emerging societal issues and to remain committed to improving the human condition.
“We fulfill and frankly we continue to build on the vision of the founders of [the Richmond School of Social Work] and RPI,” he said. “We will continue to be guided by what we can do to address the most vexing problems that we face here in our communities throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia, including Richmond, Virginia.”
The founders, he added, established a culture that laid the groundwork for VCU to become what it is today.
“I’m excited about what we are, I’m excited about the foundation that has made us what we are,” he said. “And I am quite confident that the next 100 years are going to be just as amazing as the previous 100 years of our existence.”
Tim Davey, Ph.D., interim dean of the School of Social Work, said the historical marker is a testament to the school’s mission, its dedication to the community, and to the founding of the schools of Social Work, Nursing and Arts, as well as the Medical College of Virginia, all which became the bedrock of VCU.
“I cannot help but be inspired as we work together to support the next generation of change agents to better the human condition for all,” he said.
Julie Langan, director of the Department of Historic Resources, said the state historical markers are “sound bites” that educate passersby about Virginia’s history.
“As this marker tells us, the Richmond Professional Institute was an important chapter in the story of both the City of Richmond, as well as VCU,” she said. “Today we honor those who founded the Richmond School of Social Work, as well as the contributions of this institution from its inception to the present day.”
The “Richmond Professional Institute” highway marker is sponsored by the VCU Foundation and was approved for manufacture and installation earlier this year by the Virginia Board of Historic Resources, which has authority to designate new historical markers. The VCU Foundation covered the manufacturing costs of the sign. Wednesday’s event was sponsored by the VCU School of Social Work, RPI Alumni Council, VCU Libraries and VCU Facilities Management.
Virginia’s historical highway marker program, which began in 1927 with the installation of the first historical markers along U.S. Route 1, is considered the oldest such program in the nation. Currently there are more than 2,500 official state markers, most maintained by the Virginia Department of Transportation, as well as by local partners in jurisdictions outside of VDOT’s authority such as the City of Richmond.