(RICHMOND, VA) -- The estate of former Virginia Union University president Dr. Allix B. James has donated $300,000 to the University. The gift is to be used for the completion of the lower level of Coburn Hall to include a Memorial Room to house Dr. James’ memoirs. The chapel housed inside Coburn Hall bears Dr. James’ name. A Virginia Union University alumnus, Dr. James served as the seventh president of the University from 1970 to 1979. For 46 years, he served as a faculty member and administrator at Virginia Union, with more than 30 years in senior administrative posts, including dean of students, dean of the school of theology, vice president, and president.
Under Dr. James’ leadership, corporate, foundation, and federal support increased to record levels. One of his most substantial initiatives was the establishment of the Sydney Lewis School of Business Administration. Mr. Sydney Lewis and his wife Frances, founders of Best Products, Inc., donated $2 million to the University, the largest single contribution at that time. Mr. Lewis challenged the Ford Foundation to match his gift and the Foundation donated another $2 million. Other corporate donors included Rockefeller, Lilly, Mellon, Phillip Morris, and Kellogg. Other accomplishments included the establishment of Community Learning Week as a city-wide celebration to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and the addition of Upward Bound, a preparatory program for college-bound students. Dr. James also instituted the music program from which the University band was organized and he hired two coaches who made CIAA history (Dave Robbins and Willard Bailey).
Virginia Union recognized Dr. James’ contributions with the “Martin Luther King Lifetime of Service of Award” presented at the 36th Annual Community Leaders Breakfast. The University awarded Dr. James an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters in 2011. Dr. James continued to serve his alma mater as president emeritus until his death in 2015.
Dr. James also made history as the first African-American to be elected president of the American Association of Theological Schools; the first to serve as Virginia region president of the National Conference of Christians and Jews, now the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities; the first to be elected president of the Virginia State Board of Education; and the first to chair the Richmond Planning Commission.