Remembering Ken Wright

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Every once in a while, a person touches so many lives that their name becomes synonymous with good, with generosity, with a kindness that runs so deep—and a vision that goes so far—that it’s impossible to measure the impact they make.

That was Ken Wright.

If you spent any time around Ken, then you know exactly what I mean. His kindness was contagious. His warmth radiated. His generous spirit took you in. He was an exceptional man, a giant who dedicated his life and his resources to helping those around him.

I was so saddened to learn on Friday of his passing.

I hope Ken knew how much he impacted so many lives at VCU and beyond. Ken and his wife Dianne, who passed away in 2013, were visionary philanthropists who used their benevolence and their resources to change the world for thousands of people at VCU, in Richmond, and beyond.

For more than 20 years, Ken and Dianne generously supported VCU and VCU Health, including VCU Massey Cancer Center, where Dianne was a board member, a patient, and a fierce advocate for clinical trials. They created scholarships and professorships to advance the educational experience of countless students in our nationally premier research university. They donated the property that became home to VCU Brandcenter, and they helped fund an expansion for the College of Engineering. They also invested in the lifesaving research we do in cancer and pulmonary care in the School of Medicine.

In 2015, Ken established the C. Kenneth and Dianne Wright Center for Clinical and Translational Research, one of our flagship institutions that brings together interdisciplinary human health researchers from across VCU and VCU Health. The Wright Center became the first federally funded center of its kind anywhere in Virginia and is renowned nationally for moving groundbreaking science into lifesaving care.

Ken was so much like the VCU students he loved and supported. He was creative, energetic, focused, optimistic, inclusive, hard-working, kind-hearted, determined, and always committed to the highest standards. He had a big vision, a strong resolve, and a deep commitment to using his talents and resources to change the world. And he did. Together, he and Dianne certainly changed our great university.

Ken and I got together frequently in the 10 years I had the pleasure of knowing him. It was always clear to me that he understood better than most people how much VCU means to Virginia, and that’s why he invested so much in our mission of public service. He will be part of VCU forever, leaving a legacy that will touch thousands of students and patients for generations to come.

We are forever grateful for service, compassion, and vision for a better human experience for everyone. And we will miss him dearly.