Last summer, Virginia State University renamed a campus building for Otelia Roberta Shields Howard, a former professor and adviser. On Thursday, VSU announced it had received a $500,000 gift from Howard’s niece, Dr. Audrey Shields Penn.
“This gift from Dr. Penn is an example of the residuals of good deeds,” said Tonya Hall, VSU vice president for external relations.
Last summer, VSU took four buildings whose names were associated with the Confederacy or Jim Crow and renamed them for Black women.
Vawter Hall became Lula Johnson Hall, honoring the person who is believed to be the first woman to graduate from a Virginia public college.
Eggleston Hall was renamed for Lucretia Campbell, the first Black female member of the faculty.
Trinkle Hall became Johnella Jackson Hall, a nod to the woman who wrote VSU’s alma mater.
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Otelia Howard Hall used to be called Byrd Hall, named for Harry F. Byrd Sr., the leader of the Massive Resistance movement against school desegregation.
Howard was a Petersburg native who taught English at VSU in the 1920s and 1930s. Her niece, Penn, 88, is a neurologist and the first Black woman to become acting director of a branch of the National Institutes of Health. She taught at Columbia and conducted research on neuromuscular disease.
“It is my pleasure to give to VSU to continue to push the mission of providing a transformative education to deserving students,” Penn said in a statement.
Her gift will fund an annual scholarship.