After nearly two decades serving as the fourth president of Virginia Commonwealth University, Eugene P. Trani, Ph.D., retired from the presidency on June 30, 2009. After becoming VCU’s president in 1990, Trani greatly expanded the presence of the university — which became the largest university in the commonwealth in 2007 — so that VCU assumed a key role in metropolitan and statewide development.
One of his first achievements as president of VCU was establishing the Community Service Associates Program, which linked VCU faculty with the community on projects that benefit from faculty expertise. During his tenure, faculty from more than 50 different academic units contributed to more than 250 community-based projects in partnership with approximately 175 different organizations.
In addition, under Trani's leadership, VCU expanded both academically and physically, with major initiatives on both campuses, including the schools of Business and Engineering (now College of Engineering), the Virginia BioTechnology Research Park, VCU Life Sciences and a visionary master site plan leading to the redevelopment of Broad Street in downtown Richmond — all in partnership with the public and private sectors. Another of his major initiatives, the Monroe Park Campus Addition, joined the School of Business and College of Engineering on a residential campus to foster interdisciplinary teaching, research and public service.
During his tenure, Trani also spearheaded long-range planning for the VCU Medical Center, which led to the establishment of the VCU Health System in July 2000. The health system brings together the clinical activities of MCV Hospitals and MCV Physicians. The VCU Health System has established more than a dozen satellite primary and specialty care facilities throughout the region, which provide better access to the health system’s physicians and services.
Trani directed VCU’s efforts to internationalize its campuses, establishing significant linkages with universities in the Middle East, Europe, Africa, Central and South America, and Asia. When he retired, VCU had developed universitywide partnerships with 16 universities around the world, 13 with academic medical centers.
One of the most notable international partnerships established under his leadership resulted in the creation of the VCU School of the Arts in Doha, Qatar in 1997. In May of 2009, VCUarts Qatar celebrated its eighth commencement. VCU was the first university to establish a school in Education City, a 2,500-acre campus on the outskirts of Doha that now hosts branch campuses of some of the world’s leading universities, as well as numerous other educational and research institutions.
While serving as president of VCU, Trani served on numerous corporate, civic and state governing boards and commissions. From 1997 to 1998, he served as chair of the Greater Richmond Chamber of Commerce, and from 2001 to 2004, he served as chair of Richmond Renaissance (now Venture Richmond), an organization devoted to downtown revitalization.
VCU was widely recognized for its exemplary community outreach and economic development efforts under Trani’s leadership. In 2002, VCU was cited 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 2006, the New England Board of Education released a report, "Saviors of Our Cities," in which VCU ranked eighth in a list of the top 25 “Best Neighbor” urban colleges and universities in the country.
Over the course of his various academic and leadership posts, Trani has held scholarly and board appointments in the U.S. and abroad. He was a visiting scholar at the University of Cambridge, the University of Oxford and, most recently, at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.
Throughout his career, Trani has published prolifically on a range of scholarly areas, from U.S. foreign policy and the American presidency to community and economic development and the international role of American higher education. He is the author or co-author of ten books, including “Distorted Mirrors: Americans and Their Relations with Russia and China in the Twentieth Century," “The Indispensable University: Higher Education, Economic Development, and the Knowledge Economy,” and "The Reporter Who Knew Too Much: Harrison Salisbury and the New York Times."
Prior to coming to VCU in 1990, Trani served for four years as vice president for academic affairs of the University of Wisconsin System and professor of history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. From 1980 to 1986, he was the vice chancellor for academic affairs and professor of history at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. From 1976 to 1980, he served as assistant vice president for academic affairs at the University of Nebraska.
From 1967 to 1975, Trani served as a professor at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale. In 1967, he was appointed assistant professor of history; in 1971, he was awarded tenure and promoted to associate professor of history, and in 1975 was promoted to professor of history.
From 1965 to 1967, Trani was an instructor in history at Ohio State University in Columbus. He spent the summers of 1965 and 1966 working as an historical researcher at the United States Department of the Interior in Washington, D.C.
Trani is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame and earned his master’s and doctoral degrees in history from Indiana University.
Trani and his wife, Lois, have two children, Anne and Frank. Before coming to VCU, Mrs. Trani worked for 30 years in her profession as a registered nurse and nurse anesthetist. The Tranis, their children and five grandchildren all reside in Richmond.