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I am very proud of the work we do at Virginia Commonwealth University to educate and collaborate with community members in the Richmond region and worldwide. We see the difficult and rise to the challenge to find solutions, create, innovate and heal. VCU truly embodies what it means to be a 21st century research university.

As part of this mission, we recently celebrated the opening of the Inger Rice Lodge at the VCU Rice Rivers Center. Almost 20 years ago, Mrs. Rice saw the need for research and educational research facilities on the James River and gifted land to the university. Her land donation, words of encouragement and continuing support continues to make a difference in the lives of so many people as they study the ecology of our planet.

The opening of the Inger Rice Lodge will elevate VCU’s level of research and collaboration with scientists and students from across the globe. Those examining the ecology of the James River will be able to comfortably stay on the premises for uninterrupted research and teaching. Further, students seeking to meet the experiential learning requirement will have an amazing place to fulfill their academic need.

The construction of the lodge also sparked momentum for fundraising for critically needed laboratory space. With WestRock’s lead gift in 2011 and a challenge grant from the Cabell Foundation’s in 2014, we are getting closer to providing researchers and students with state-of-the art facilities on the grounds of the Rice Rivers Center. Mrs. Rice was instrumental in our meeting the terms of the Cabell Foundation’s challenge grant.

Recently, the Mary Morton Parsons Foundation awarded VCU a challenge grant of $1 million to help us complete fundraising for the research building.  We have one year to reach our goal and I am confident that we will be successful in our efforts. I am confident that we will be successful in our challenge and we will celebrate the opening of superb research facilities in the near future.