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Virginia Union University Announces Honorary Degree Recipients

May 25, 2017

Virginia Union University Acting President Dr. Joseph F. Johnson and the Board of Trustees are pleased to announce that the University will award honorary degrees to the following persons at its May 13, 2017 Commencement:

     Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, who is also the Commencement speaker, will receive the Doctor of Humane Letters.  The 72nd Governor of Virginia, Terence Richard McAuliffe, is focused on building a new economy in Virginia.  His number one priority is economic development and creating and maintaining jobs for the Commonwealth.  Toward that end, he has signed legislation increasing the amount of Virginia qualified research and development expenses that can be claimed as a tax credit.  He signed standards of learning reform legislation to improve Virginia’s education system. He also established the New Virginia Economy Workforce Initiative, which will better align workforce supply with demand.

          Yvonne Jones Bibbs is pastor of the Sixth Baptist Church in Richmond, Virginia.  She is the first female pastor in the church’s 94-year history.  During her 16 years of leadership, the church has experienced significant growth, including multiple renovation projects to the church sanctuary, the media room, the church’s lower worship center and banquet facility, kitchen, and ministry house for youth and bible studies.  Phase three of Dr. Bibbs’ five-year mission statement includes a family life/community center.  Dr. Bibbs will receive the Doctor of Divinity.

          James and Barbara Sellman made their first gift of art to Virginia Union University in 1988.  During the next 22 years, their donations would exceed 300 artistic works, ranging from masks, sculptures, utilitarian carvings and textiles from West and Central Africa and Guatemala.  The donations are currently housed in the Virginia Union University Museum Galleries located in the L. Douglas Wilder Library.  Thanks to the generosity of the Sellmans, Virginia Union’s collection of paintings and drawings by self-taught African American artist Thornton Dial, Sr. has become one of the most important repositories of Dial’s work in any university or museum.  The Sellmans are receiving the Doctor of Humane Letters.

          Elizabeth Dianne Nelson Watkins Walker is the president and founder of Bells for Peace, Inc.  The organization was established in memory of Virginia Union University’s first African American president, Dr. John Malcus Ellison, and his wife Elizabeth Balfour Ellison, to emphasize the importance of education as the key to a more peaceful community, region, nation, and world.  Mrs. Walker worked tirelessly to promote the history of Virginia Union University and was able to secure donations to install an electronic carillon in the Belgian Friendship Building, as well as repair the bas reliefs on the exterior of the building, and light the building’s tower.  She is receiving the Doctor of Humane Letters.