Our own Dr. Grace E. Harris joins the RPI Alumni Golden Circle Club this year as she celebrates her 50th anniversary of graduating from Richmond Professional Institute (RPI). Emeritus Dean of the VCU School of Social Work, VCU Provost and interim President of the University (1995 and 1998), Dr. Harris is VCU’s longest serving administrator providing more than forty years of service.
Dr Harris blazed a remarkable and historic career path at Virginia Commonwealth University. Earning an undergraduate degree in sociology from Hampton Institute in 1954, she was originally denied admission into graduate school at Richmond Professional Institute because of her race. Subsequently, Dr. Harris joined the SSW faculty in 1967 and became the Social Work Dean in 1982 serving in that capacity until 1990. She continued to rise through the ranks academically and within senior administrative ranks achieving the position of Provost- the University’s highest academic officer.
Dr. Harris has been a pioneer in so many ways and has always remained focused on students, staff and the reputation and quality of VCU. Upon her retirement in 1999, the Board of Visitors created the Grace E. Harris Leadership institute, which she continues to lead. The University also named an academic building, Grace E. Harris Hall, in her honor in 2008. In a 1995 article in VCU’s alumni magazine Dr. Harris stated: “Becoming Dean was the most significant professional accomplishment and personal victory for me, given the complete turn of events it entailed.”