Dr. Eugene P. Trani was appointed the fourth President of Virginia Commonwealth University on July 1, 1990 and served as President until June 30, 2009. He also served as President and Chair of the Board of Directors of the VCU Health System and holds a tenured appointment as Professor of History. He is now President Emeritus and University Distinguished Professor. As Professor he will continue to research and write, with books on Harrison Salisbury and a history of VCU in progress, and teach in the Honors College beginning in fall 2010.
Virginia Commonwealth University
Virginia Commonwealth University, a Carnegie Doctoral/Research University-Extensive, is located in Virginia’s capital city Richmond. Enrolling more than 32,000 students on the Monroe Park Campus and at the VCU Medical Center, the university offers 205 degree and certificate programs for full- and part-time students in its fifteen schools and the College of Humanities and Sciences. With 1,787 full-time faculty attracting more than $227 million in research grants and contracts and with a total of more than 18,000 employees, VCU and the VCU Health System’s combined annual budget exceeds $2.2 billion. The VCU Medical Center, one of the largest and most comprehensive health sciences complexes in the nation, offers programs through the Schools of Allied Health Professions, Dentistry, Medicine, Nursing and Pharmacy. The VCU Health System has been ranked as one of the best academic health centers in the nation in “The Best Hospitals in America.” The VCU Medical Center, a Level-1 trauma center, provides primary and secondary care to the metropolitan area and serves as a tertiary care referral center for the southeast region. The Monroe Park Campus, with one of the nation’s largest art schools and the south’s oldest School of Social Work, offers degree programs through these schools as well as schools of Business, Engineering and Education, and the College of Humanities and Sciences (which includes the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs, the School of Mass Communications, and the School of World Studies). Twenty graduate programs are ranked among the best of their peers by “U.S. News & World Report.“ Two programs, sculpture and nurse anesthesia, are ranked number one in their respective disciplines.
Dr. Trani reported to the VCU Board of Visitors and served as the Chief Executive Officer of the institution, overseeing the operations of both campuses and the VCU Health System.
Dr. Trani established an active administration at VCU. Among his first initiatives was to formalize relationships with the Richmond area through a number of community programs. These programs placed VCU Police in the troubled corridor of Grace Street next to the Monroe Park Campus and led to the establishment of the Community Advisory Boards for both campuses. Their centerpiece is the Community Service Associates Program, which pairs VCU faculty with members of the community on special projects designed to benefit from academic expertise.
During his VCU tenure, Dr. Trani also guided the development of “A Strategic Plan for the Future of Virginia Commonwealth University,” which produced significant organizational changes in programs and administration, including a comprehensive administrative streamlining report; a new framework for establishing interdisciplinary centers that combine VCU’s strengths in teaching, research, and service; a new faculty roles and rewards policy and a companion review process for VCU’s promotion and tenure policy; a master planning effort that incorporates new architectural guidelines into the development of the campuses in a way that complements their surroundings in the community; and a comprehensive technology plan developed in collaboration with area businesses for the entire institution.
Among the strategic plan’s important areas of focus has been enhancing VCU’s growing importance to economic development in Virginia. Dr. Trani spearheaded the development of the Virginia Biotechnology Research Park, which has attracted the biotech industry to Virginia, serving as Chair of the Research Park Authority Board. Currently, more than 58 private sector companies, non-profit organizations, VCU research institutes and government labs are housed in nine buildings, occupying more than 1.1 million square feet of space and representing an investment of nearly $525 million. These tenants employ more than 2,000 scientists, researchers, engineers and technicians. The Park’s newest building, BioTech Nine, home to the Philip Morris Center for Research and Technology represents an investment of more than $350 million and will ultimately bring up to 600 new scientists and support personnel to this major new project. With the completion of this new building, the Park is currently at approximately two-thirds of its ultimate capacity of 1.5 million square feet of space and an employee base of more than 3,000 life science professionals.
The plan also brought the development of a new engineering school, uniquely designed with a manufacturing and biomedical focus tied to the biotechnology and industrial needs of the region. The school offers undergraduate, master’s and doctoral degrees and graduated its first class of undergraduates in May 2000. The Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) has accredited the undergraduate programs in chemical, electrical, mechanical and biomedical Engineering and computer science. The school is playing a major role in attracting the microelectronics and health sciences industry to Virginia and in regional and national rankings of Virginia and the Richmond region as top business development environments.
Dr. Trani also led the development of new strategies in response to health-care reform in a plan called “Building a Health Care Delivery System” with a goal to secure the financial future of the academic health enterprise and create new relationships with different sectors of the community concerned with the delivery of health care. These relationships include a community primary care partnership; a Medicaid-HMO, Virginia Premier; new relationships with area specialists; alliances to establish primary care centers in Richmond; and relationships with insurance providers, businesses, and corporations. It also led in 2000 to the establishment of the VCU Health System, comprising all of the clinical activities of the VCU Medical Center – the Medical College of Virginia Hospitals and MCV Physicians.
Throughout his tenure as President, Dr. Trani directed VCU’s efforts to internationalize its campuses. During his presidency, he established significant linkages with universities in the Middle East, Europe, Africa, South America, India and China. Currently, VCU has developed significant university-wide partnerships with 15 universities around the world, most with academic medical centers.
One of the most notable international partnerships established under Dr. Trani’s leadership resulted in the creation of the VCU School of the Arts in Doha, Qatar in 1997. The Qatar Foundation, which was established in 1996 by the Emir of the State of Qatar, and VCU’s School of the Arts developed an agreement to establish the VCU-Qatar College of Design Arts in Doha, the capital city of Qatar. The State Council of Higher Education for Virginia approved the awarding of bachelor of fine arts degrees in graphic design, fashion design and interior design at the college, creating a third campus of the university. In June 2002, the college graduated its first students. VCU was the first university to establish a school in what is called Education City, a 2,500-acre campus on the outskirts of Doha which now hosts branch campuses of some of the world’s leading universities, as well as numerous other educational and research institutions. The universities that have joined VCU include Cornell University, Texas A&M University, Carnegie Mellon University, Georgetown University and Northwestern University.
VCU Life Sciences, another important strategic accomplishment under the direction of Dr. Trani, was launched at the beginning of fall 2001 semester with the completion of the Eugene P. and Lois E. Trani Center for Life Sciences. The Trani Center is named in recognition of their tremendous contributions to the university, the Health System and the local and state communities. VCU Life Sciences is dedicated to training the workforce of the post-genomic/technology era and conducting the research that will lead to advances in community, economic and health-care development. The VCU School of Medicine, the VCU Health System, the Rice Center for Environmental Life Sciences and the university’s programs in basic and clinical sciences, the humanities, engineering, business and education have been integrated to offer undergraduate and graduate programs in fields ranging from forensic science to genomics to environmental studies. VCU Life Sciences is unique in its focus on undergraduate education, beginning at the freshman level with Life Sciences 101, the "gateway" course where freshmen have the opportunity to learn about the scope of life sciences from the university’s top researchers.
Between 1990 and 2009, Dr. Trani spearheaded a $2.2 billion investment in infrastructure. More than $100 million has been invested in construction on Broad Street – Richmond’s main thoroughfare – which has attracted more than $100 million in new business activity to the area. A recent master site plan, VCU 2020, identified approximately $1 billion in capital projects, and includes new academic, medical, recreation, student housing and parking facilities. In all, the plan includes more than 40 new facilities between the two main campuses. Highlights included a new School of Medicine building, a new School of Nursing building, and a critical care bed tower on the MCV Campus; and on the Monroe Park Campus, the schools of Business and Engineering come together on a new residential campus to foster interdisciplinary teaching, research and public service.
Dr. Trani’s academic and community leadership was recognized in 1992 with the Central Richmond Association’s Leadership and Achievement Award, in 1994 with the Distinguished Leadership Award from the National Association of Community Leadership, in 1995 with the Richmond Humanitarian Award from the National Conference of Christians and Jews, in 1996 with the Greater Richmond Technology Council Industrial Leadership Award, in 1998 with the Flame Bearer of Education Award from The College Fund/UNCF, in 1999 with the Virginia Biotechnology Association’s Biotechnology Leadership Award. Also in 1999, Richmond’s STYLE magazine named Dr. Trani the 1998 Richmonder of the Year as well as one of the top 100 Richmonders of the Century. In spring 2002, his leadership in the role of VCU in community and economic development was recognized as one of two national case studies, along with Columbia University, in “Leveraging Colleges and Universities for Urban Economic Revitalization: An Action Agenda,” by CEOs for Cities and the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City. In 2002, he also was honored with Richmond Joint Engineers Council’s Community Service Award. In 2003, he received both the Corporate Giant Award from the Central Virginia Business Construction Association and the Hope Award from the Central Virginia Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. In 2005, he was honored by the Arthritis Foundation at the annual Crystal Ball event. In 2006, he was awarded the Dr. Richard B. Caspari Award by the Richmond Area Association of periOperative Registered Nurses and the national Community Leadership Award by the Association of University Research Parks. In 2007, he was ranked number one in STYLE magazine’s annual ranking of Richmond’s most powerful people. Dr. Trani also received in 2007 the prestigious Woodrow Wilson Award for International Engagement from the World Affairs Council and the President’s Award for Excellence in Leadership from the Virginia Minority Supplier Development Council. In 2008, Dr. Trani was presented the Neilson J. November Award for Community Service by the Virginia Holocaust Museum.
Dr. Trani has held numerous board appointments including the Board of Directors of Crestar Bank, Universal Corporation and Richmond Renaissance. In 1997-1998, Dr. Trani served as Chairman of The Greater Richmond Chamber of Commerce, after serving on the Board of the Chamber for seven years. From 1998 to 2006, he served on the Board of Directors for The Collegiate School. From 2000 to 2002, Dr. Trani served on the Board of Directors of the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development. From 2001 to 2004, he served as chair of Richmond Renaissance, the city’s major organization devoted to downtown revitalization.
Dr. Trani has remained a scholar of history and U.S. foreign affairs throughout his tenure at VCU. His areas of expertise include, among others, community and economic development, the international role of American higher education, U.S. foreign policy and the American presidency.
In the summer of 1995, Dr. Trani served a sabbatical at the University of London, where he worked on his research on the presidency of Woodrow Wilson. The result, “The First Cold War: The Legacy of Woodrow Wilson in U.S.-Soviet Relations,” which he coauthored, was published in English in August 2002 by the University of Missouri Press, and in Russia by Olma-Press Publishing House in Moscow. The Chinese-language version was published by Peking University Press in China in 2007. “The First Cold War” has been reviewed in 20 scholarly historical journals and newspapers, with enthusiastic and positive reviews. He has lectured extensively on “The First Cold War,” both domestically and abroad at venues which have included: the Institute of United States Studies at the University of London; the Truman Presidential Museum and Library in Independence, Missouri; and, the Kennan Institute at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.
As a recognized scholar on the presidency of Warren G. Harding, Dr. Trani also was invited to serve as an expert commentator on the Harding presidency on C-SPAN’s “American Presidents” series. His book, “The Presidency of Warren G. Harding,” was selected in 2000 by “Book: The Magazine for the Reading Life” as the best book on President Harding.
In the spring of 1998, Dr. Trani served as a Fellow Commoner at St. John’s College in Cambridge, England, where he completed a comparative study of technology development in Cambridge and in Richmond called “Richmond at a Crossroads: The Greater Richmond Metropolitan Area and the Knowledge Based High Technology Economy of the 21st Century.” During the summer of 2002, he also served as a Visiting Professor at University College Dublin to study the role of higher education in the making of the Irish “Celtic Tiger” economy. That report, “The Dublin Diaries: A Study of High Technology Development in Ireland,” was completed in December 2002. He has been invited to present lectures and participate in panel discussions on issues relating to “The Dublin Diaries” on numerous occasions.
During the summer of 2005, Dr. Trani served as a Senior Visiting Scholar at Lincoln College, Oxford, where he continued to work on his book “Distorted Mirrors: Americans and Their Relations with Russia and China in the Twentieth Century,”co-authored with Donald E. Davis. This book has been published in English by the University of Missouri Press, in Russian by VAGRIUS Publishers in Moscow, and in Spanish by the University of Cordoba Press. In the fall of 2006, “Russia 2006: Criticize but don’t Exclude” — an opinion piece he wrote in which he explores current U.S.-Russian relations and their implication on the burgeoning alliance between China and Russia — was published by the “International Herald Tribune.” From July through September of 2007, Dr. Trani returned to St. John’s College, Cambridge as a Senior Visiting Scholar, where he completed a comprehensive review of his manuscript, published in 2009. Another book, "The Indispensable University: Higher Education, Economic Development, and the Knowledge Economy," was published in 2010 by Rowman & Littlefield Publishers and the American Council on Education. In the summer of 2008, he served as a Visiting Scholar at the John F. Kennedy School at Harvard University, where he worked on the book on universities and their impact on economic development.
In September 2010, Richmond’s Future, and independent 501(c)(3) think tank, was established to address issues that are vital to the future of the Richmond metropolitan region. Dr. Trani serves as Chairman of the Board of Directors and Executive Director of Richmond’s Future. Richmond’s Future, which has four years of funding committed by its sponsors, is regionally focused and will conduct 2-3 studies per year, exploring the drivers that are crucial to the long-term prosperity and well-being of the Richmond region.
From 2006 to 2010, Dr. Trani served on the Board of Directors of the New College Institute in Martinsville, Virginia. He co-chaired the 2012 Planning Commission for the future of the New College Institute, a higher education center serving Southside Virginia. Currently, he is chairing the committee to examine branch-campus possibilities for New College Institute, which would result in New College Institute becoming a campus of a four-year public Virginia university.
Dr. Trani continues to teach in VCU’s Honors College and is currently working on three new books. One is a biography of The New York Times reporter and editor, Harrison Salisbury. The second is a history of Virginia Commonwealth University from 1968 to 2009, and the third is about the new suspension bridge being built between Italy and Sicily. In the last two years, he has given presentations on his research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Southern Illinois University, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, St. Petersburg University in Russia, the Institute of Education at the University of London, the Beijing Foreign Studies University in the People’s Republic of China, Clemson University and the University of Mary Washington.