Since arriving in 1990 to become the fourth president of Virginia Commonwealth University, Dr. Eugene P. Trani has greatly expanded the mission of the University so that it plays a key role in metropolitan and statewide development.
VCU — the largest university in the Commonwealth of Virginia — enrolls more than 32,000 students and employs more than 17,000 faculty and staff at VCU and the VCU Health System. The University offers more than 205 undergraduate, graduate, professional, doctoral and post-graduate degree and certificate programs through 15 schools and one college.
VCU and its affiliates are an enterprise worth more than $2 billion in annual revenues. These revenues include more than $205 million in annual research funds, ranking VCU in the top 100 research universities in the United States, with a research faculty that is nationally and internationally recognized for excellence in teaching and research. Twenty-five of VCU’s graduate, professional programs have been ranked by U.S. News & World Report as among the best of their peers in the nation; two programs are ranked No. 1.
Since 1990, Dr. Trani has spearheaded an investment in the institution’s infrastructure currently worth more than $1.2 billion. Approximately $100 million has been invested in construction on Broad Street next to campus, which has attracted approximately $100 million in new business activity in this area, including Ukrop’s, Kroger, Lowe’s and upscale apartments. The recently updated master site plan, VCU 2020, identifies approximately $1 billion in capital projects and includes new academic, medical, recreation, student housing and parking facilities. In all, the plan consists of more than 40 new facilities, about evenly split between the two main campuses. Highlights include a School of Medicine building, a School of Nursing building, a Critical Care Hospital, and the Monroe Park Campus Addition, which brings together the schools of Business and Engineering on a new residential campus to foster interdisciplinary teaching, research and public service.
The Research Park is already a thriving statewide incubator for start-up firms and offers state-of-the-art space for companies, research institutes and every major state laboratory in Virginia. Currently there are eight buildings worth more than $145 million in capital investment with more than 1,200 employees. A new research center — 500,000 square feet in size and costing $350 million — is currently under construction for Philip Morris, USA. The center opened in 2007, increasing the total square feet of the Research Park to 1.1 million and the total number of employees working in the park to more than 2,000. At full development, the downtown park will contain 1.5 million square feet of research, office and laboratory space in 18 to 20 buildings and employ nearly 3,000 people working in fields that include drug development, medical diagnostics and devices, biomedical engineering, environmental biosciences, and forensics and laboratory services.
Dr. Trani also spearheaded a public-private partnership to establish a new engineering school at VCU with a focus on biomedical engineering. Established in 1996, today more than 1,000 students are enrolled in its undergraduate and graduate biomedical, chemical and life science, electrical and computer, and mechanical engineering, and computer science programs. The influence of the School of Engineering and the Research Park led Fortune magazine to name Richmond one of the 10 most improved places for business in North America.
As President and Chair of the Board of Directors of the VCU Health System, Dr. Trani has had a tremendous influence on the role of the University’s clinical mission in health care in the region and across the state. Strategic planning under his leadership led in 2000 to the establishment of the VCU Health System, a merger of all the clinical activities of the Medical College of Virginia Hospitals, MCV Physicians and VCU’s School of Medicine.
In working toward the establishment of the VCU Health System, Dr. Trani envisioned a partnership between VCU’s clinical mission and the greater health care community. The VCU Health System now 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. This objective has included a focus on improving access to primary care for those who cannot afford health care or insurance. The result is the Virginia Coordinated Care for the Uninsured, a partnership with community physicians to provide patients more effective and less costly primary care as well as to improve the health status of the Richmond population.
Dr. Trani’s vision for VCU Life Sciences has integrated the teaching, research and service mission of the University around cutting-edge science from both the Monroe Park Campus and the VCU Medical Center. The Trani Center for Life Sciences, named in recognition of the contributions of Dr. and Mrs. Trani to the University, the Health System and the community, opened in fall 2001.
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 the sciences, including health and clinical science, 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 curriculum’s “gateway” course where freshmen have the opportunity to learn about the scope of life sciences from the University’s top researchers.
Through the mission of Virginia Commonwealth University and his personal devotion to the community, Dr. Trani also has made a significant commitment of service to the Richmond metro region and beyond.
Developing a master site plan that would provide for University expansion in the abandoned Broad Street corridor proved to be one of his most important strategies not only to support VCU’s growing mission but also to promote better community relations and neighborhood economic development. As a result, VCU’s new buildings complement the area’s native architectural features while also making a significant contribution to the revitalization of this major city corridor.
In 1990, Dr. Trani also established the Community Service Associates Program. This program supports faculty in contributing time to work directly with community organizations on projects that can benefit from faculty expertise. Faculty from more than 50 different academic units has contributed to more than 250 community-based projects in partnership with about 175 different organizations. A key offshoot of the Community Service Associates Program is the development of service learning for students. Through service learning, VCU students can enhance classroom teaching with real-world applications.
One of the significant highlights of community relations under Dr. Trani is the development of the Carver-VCU Partnership, which involves faculty, students and a VCU community-policing program in collaboration with Carver residents and the city. The community-policing component has resulted in a dramatic decrease in crime rates in the area surrounding Carver and VCU’s campus. The entire initiative has attracted major federal and foundation grant support and recognition as a national model of university-community partnership that supports student learning, faculty scholarship, as well as assists in the revitalization of urban neighborhoods.
Dr. Trani’s community service leadership has been recognized in a number of ways. He served as Chair of the Metropolitan Richmond Chamber of Commerce from 1997-98 and served as Chair of Richmond Renaissance from 2001-2004. In the spring of 2002, CEOs for Cities, a high powered alliance of mayors, corporate executives, university presidents and experts on inner-city development, released a report in collaboration with the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City (ICIC) praising VCU and Dr. Trani for strong leadership, focus on economic development and success in working with the Richmond community. In “Leveraging Colleges and Universities for Urban Economic Revitalization: An Action Agenda,” VCU was presented as a national case study, along with Columbia University, of the impact of higher education in the revitalization of our nation’s cities. Following this report, VCU received coast-to-coast coverage for its innovative programs toward city enhancement and revitalization.
Other organizations, such as the Central Richmond Association, the National Association of Community Leadership, the National Conference of Christians and Jews, the Greater Richmond Technology Council, the Virginia Biotechnology Association, the Association of University Research Parks, the Richmond Joint Engineers Council, the Multiple Sclerosis Society, the Arthritis Foundation and the Richmond Area Association of periOperative Registered Nurses have recognized Dr. Trani with leadership awards for service to the community. In 1999, Richmond’s Style magazine named him Richmonder of the Year as well as one of the top 100 Richmonders of the Century.
Dr. Trani also has directed VCU’s efforts to internationalize its campuses. During his presidency, he has established significant linkages with universities in the Middle East, Europe, Africa, South and Central America, and Asia. Currently VCU has developed university-wide partnerships with 15 universities, 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. In May of 2008, VCUQ celebrated its seventh commencement. 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.
Dr. Trani has remained a scholar of history and U.S. foreign affairs throughout his career. 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 in Moscow. The Chinese-language version is being published by Peking University Press in China, to be released in 2007. “The First Cold War” has been reviewed in 20 scholarly historical journals and newspapers, with uniformly 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 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 next book “Distorted Mirrors: American Images of Russia and China, 1891 1991,” co-authored with Donald E. Davis. When completed, this book will be published in English by the University of Missouri Press, in Russian by VAGRIUS Publishers in Moscow, in Chinese by Peking University Press, 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, to be published in 2009. During the summer of 2008, Dr. Trani was a visiting scholar at The Taubman Center for State and Local Government at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School, where he worked on another book on universities and economic development, which also will be published in 2009 and is under contract with the American Council on Education.
On June 30, 2009, Dr. Trani retires from his positions as president of VCU and president and chair of the VCU Health System.