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History of Richmond Professional Institute

Tableith and Time Line of Richmond Professional Institute


“Tableith” was created to honor Richmond Professional Institute (RPI) in 2008 for the 40th anniversary celebration of VCU. The sculpture weighs more than 20 tons and includes 51 cast disks stacked atop each other and spiraling upward. Each of the disks is inscribed with historical information or key events from the years 1917 to 1968 when RPI merged with the Medical College of Virginia to form VCU. More about the sculpture here.

                         “Tableith” is located just west of Ginter House.




Richmond Professional Institute (RPI) Timeline 

(The “Tableith” timeline is a shortened version of the timeline below.) 

1917 - Founded as the Richmond School of Social Economy. Dr. Henry H. Hibbs, Jr. was hired in June of 1917 as Director. Dr. Hibbs was born Nov. 25, 1887 in Smithland, Kentucky and died April 4, 1977, Lexington, Virginia. Hibbs would lead the school until his retirement in 1959. The school opens with seven students in social work and 23 in public health nursing at 1112 Capitol St. (in Capitol Square), sharing a city-owned building with the Richmond Courts.

1918 - The name of the school changed to the Richmond School of Social Work and Public Health.  Public Health program added as part of the war effort.

1919 - The school moves to the vestry of the Monumental Church at 1228 East Broad Street, currently part of the MCV campus. Department of Recreation and Physical Education added.

1920 - Begins first affiliation with College of William and Mary for extension courses.

1921 - Courses in the Study of Dramatic Arts added to Recreation and Community Work curriculum.

1922 - Graduating students create a school alumni of nearly 200.

1923 - Moves to 17 North Fifth Street, considered a safer part of town for night students and convenient to the Richmond YWCA facilities which are across the street.

1924 - College of William and Mary offers to operate the school as an extension of the college. 46 full time students; 46 in extension courses.

1925 - Becomes the Richmond Division of the College of William and Mary. Moves to 827 W. Franklin Street, now Founder's Hall. Enrollment is 52 full-time and 393 part-time students.

 1926 - Model T Ford purchased to support public health and social work fieldwork in rural areas.

 1927 - First male student admitted .School of Social Work offers Master's degree.

 1928 - Art classes first offered by the school. Theresa Pollak (1899-2002) hired as first full time art instructor.. A combined academic and nursing course for students leading to a baccalaureate degree is offered.

 1929 - Student newspaper The Atlas begins publishing.

 1930 - Dr. Margaret L. Johnson (1901-1959), future first Dean of Women at RPI, is hired to teach Latin and French. 901 W. Franklin Street, the former home to Lewis Ginter, is acquired by the school.

1931 - Women's field hockey team established. The Anderson Gallery opens in the Ginter House converted stables. In a few years it would become the school's library. After the library moved to the James Branch Cabell Library in 1970, a new Anderson Gallery opened up again. The Wigwam, the student yearbook, first published.

1932 - Richmond Institute of Business absorbed.

1933 - The School of Art formally organized and a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree first offered. Twenty art scholarships awarded.

1934 - The Department of Interior Decoration added to School of Art. 322 students enrolled from 20 states.

1935 - Enrollment is 369 full time students, 512 extension and part time students.

1936 - School of Art expands with Departments of Costume Design and Interior Design. 403 full time students and 497 part time and extension students.

1937 - The School of Store Service Education program founded through a federal grant to train executives for Richmond's large and expanding retail sector. The program becomes the School of Business in 1946.

1938 - The Allison House, 908-910 W. Franklin St., purchased - eventually becomes VCU President's House. Rosamond McCanless (1904-1991) hired as first full time librarian. She would serve in that role through 1968 and retire in 1975.

1939 - The school is renamed Richmond Professional Institute (RPI) of the College of William and Mary. TheRitter Hickock House, 821 W. Franklin St. ., purchased. Student newspaper name changed to The Proscript.

1940 - First productions, directed by Raymond Hodges (1909-1984), by what became the Department of Theatre. Hodges headed the department from 1940 until his retirement in 1969. 

1941 - New courses for the Fall semester include "Radio Production," "Typing," and "Museum Intern Work." 

1942 - Clinical and Applied Psychology program offered in School for Technicians in Science and Medicine.

1943 - School of Occupational Therapy, instituted in 1942, accredited to provide therapy to returning soldiers.

1944 - Veterans begin to enroll through GI. Bill. Male student population goes from 30 in 1940 to 805 in 1947, including 650 veterans.

1945 - Total enrollment exceeds 1000.

1946 - Men's basketball team established. Virginia Polytechnic Institute's School of Engineering establishes a branch at RPI for freshman and sophomore work.

1947 - 217 N. Shafer St. and 828 Park Ave purchased - RPI now owns 20 buildings.  School of Art adds Department of Art Education: Industrial Arts and Crafts.

1948 - RPI students select the Green Devils to be the first sports mascot in a vote.  Commission for Civil Rights organized in Richmond with RPI professor Howard Davis as chair. Enrollment exceeds 1500 from 32 states and 4 countries.

1949 - First dorm for men opens at 712 W. Franklin St. 

1950 - Journalism program established through classes offered by the School of Applied Sciences, Department of English, and the School of Business. Ed Allen hired to be RPI's first full-time Athletic Director, basketball, and baseball coach.

1951 - Five African American students admitted full-time as Graduate students to the School of Social Work. Integration at RPI was not consistent. In 1954, Dr. Grace Harris (later Provost of VCU) was denied admission to the graduate School of Social Work. After attending school in Boston, she later finished her MSW at RPI, graduating in 1960. "The New Gym" at 800  W. Franklin St. is the first new building constructed entirely with state funding on campus.

1952 - Mary Eugenia Kapp (1909-1983) leaves DuPont to become the first Chair of the School of Applied Sciences. School of Clinical and Applied Psychology organized as a separate division and given title of profession school. 

1953 - Southern Association of Colleges accredits RPI as an entity independent from W&M.

1954 - RPI admitted to Little Six sports conference.

1955 - The School of Rehabilitative Counseling established. Total operating budget passes the $1 million mark.

1956 - Student yearbook renamed The Cobblestone (it had been The Wigwam).

1957 - RPI men's basketball records first winning season. Co-captain Edward H. Peeples, Jr. later returned to teach at RPI, MCV and VCU for over 30 years.

1958 - Construction begins on Hibbs Building on Shafer Street, RPI's first dedicated classroom building.

1959 - Dr. George J. Oliver (1898-1973) is chosen as Provost of RPI after Dr. Henry H. Hibbs, Jr. (1888-1977) retires as Dean after 42 years of leadership. Future counterculture novelist Tom Robbins graduates with a degree in Journalism.

1960 - Enrollment tops 4,200.

1961 - Full-time enrollment exceeds 2,000. Library surpasses 50,000 volumes. State Council of Higher Education recommends separating RPI and the Norfolk Division (now Old Dominion University) from the College of William and Mary.

1962 - RPI separates from College of William and Mary and begins operation as an independent state institution. School colors are changed to blue and grey on the recommendation of the School of Art faculty, evoking Richmond as a combination of North and South.

1963 - Since the school team name "Green Devils" did not match RPI's new color scheme, the school mascot changes to "The Rams."

1964 - School acquires Monroe Park Terrace Apartment building (renamed Johnson Hall) as a dormitory.

1965 - The School of Arts and Sciences is established. The state's Higher Education Study Commission recommends formation of an urban university in Richmond.

1966 - Wayne Commission is created by Virginia General Assembly to study implementation of the 1965 Commission recommendations.

1967 - Roland Nelson, Jr. (1929- ) becomes RPI's third head upon Dr. Oliver's retirement.  The Wayne Commission Report recommends Virginia Commonwealth University be created by combining RPI and the Medical College of Virginia. 

1968 - On July 1, 1968, Richmond Professional Institute and the Medical College of Virginia officially become Virginia Commonwealth University. VCU opens with an enrollment of more than 10,000 students.