Clara Byrd Baker Open or Close
Clara Byrd Baker was an educator, civic leader, and suffragette who fought for equal rights in the early 20th century. In 1920, she became the first woman in Williamsburg to vote, after the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified. In 1967, she was recognized by the superintendent of schools at a tribute gathering in her honor in Williamsburg. He stated that he could "not remember any worthwhile community-wide effort in which Baker had not participated." In 1989, the Clara Byrd Baker Elementary School was named in her honor.
Dr. Mary E. Branch Open or Close
Dr. Mary Elizabeth Branch was a dedicated teacher. She joined the VSU faculty and was a challenging and popular instructor at VSU for twenty years. She also served as VSU's housing director. In 1930 the American Missionary Association appointed her president of Tillotson College in Austin, Texas, becoming the first African-American female to become President of a Texas College. She successfully transformed Tillotson from a women’s junior college into a 4-year, co-educational undergraduate school with an “A” rating from the Southern Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools.
President Lyndon Johnson appointed her to the Negro Advisory Board of the National Youth Administration during the Depression. She was also president of the Austin chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and helped establish the United Negro College Fund.
Dr. Herman Branson Open or Close
Dr. Herman Branson, VSU Class of 1936, received his Ph.D. in Physics from the University of Cincinnati under the famous Boris Padowski in 1939. From 1941-43, he was Assistant Professor of Physics and Chemistry at Howard University and was also the Director of the ESMWT (Experimental Science and Mathematics W Technology) Program in Physics also at Howard. His research interests were in mathematical biology and protein structure. He produced more than 100 research and other articles on physics, biophysics, Black American colleges, and science education. He also wrote extensively on physical-chemical studies of sickled anemic red blood cells.
His most significant undertakings included co-discovery of the alpha helix, an integral equation of biological systems, electron impact studies on small organic molecules. He was also associated with the introduction of information theory in the study of biological molecules, the introduction of information theory in the study of biological models, and the use of radioactive and stable isotopes in transport studies in biology. Dr. Branson perhaps deserved a share of the Nobel prize for the alpha helix discovery, but as the story goes somehow renowned scientist Linus Pauling got Branson excluded from the prize. Dr. Branson, who later became president of Central State University and Lincoln University gave his account of the discovery in a 1984 letter, saying that in 1948-49, while working for Linus Pauling at the California Institute of Technology, Branson did research on how amino acids could be arranged in a protein molecule. A year later, Pauling wrote up the discovery and credited Branson and another scientist as coauthors. Pauling later became a Nobel laureate.
Dr. Martha E. Dawson Open or Close
Her contributions to both her alma mater and Hampton University tutions have been remarkable. VSU blossomed during her tenure as Dean of the School of Education and as provost and vice president for academic affairs. At Hampton, she served as chair of the Department of Elementary Education, vice president for academic affairs, and director of the Living History Research Project.
Dr. Mary Hatwood Futrell Open or Close
An internationally known educator and former president of the National Education Association (NEA), Dr. Futrell, VSU Class of 1961, has served as the Dean of The George Washington University Graduate School of Education and Human Development (GW/GSEHD) in Washington, DC, a Professor of Education Policy and Administration, and the Director of the Institute for Curriculum, Standards, and Technology. In addition to an unprecedented six-year term leading the NEA, Dr. Futrell served as President of Education International, which represents 23,000,000 million educators worldwide.
Dr. Freddie W. Nicholas, Sr. Open or Close
Dr. Freddie W. Nicholas, VSU Class of 1951, was the first African American president of a college within the Virginia Community College system, John Tyler Community College. He served as President from 1979-1990 and during his tenure was responsible for the expansion of the college due to his leadership, dedication and vision for the institution. Dr. Nicholas was also instrumental in revitalizing the John Tyler Foundation. The Nicholas Student Center on campus is named in his honor.
Amaza Lee Meredith Open or Close
One of the nation’s first documented African-American female architects, who designed and built Azurest South, the official Virginia State University Alumni Association House/Office. She was also a professor at Virginia State University and is credited for establishing the School of Fine Arts Department at the University.
Dr. W. Clinton Pettus Open or Close
Dr. W. Clinton Pettus, VSU Class of 1966 and 1970, became the 8th President of Cheyney University of Pennsylvannia in 1996. He served as President from 1996 -2004. Prior to becoming President, he was the Chief academic officer at Cheyney. Before working at Cheyney, he worked at VSU for 24 years. At VSU, he was a psychology professor, a departmental chairperson, a dean, and a vice-president.
Dr. James Stith Open or Close
Named in 2004 as one of the 50 Most Important Blacks in Research Science by both Science Spectrum and US Black Engineer & Information Technology magazines, Dr. Stith, VSU Class of 1963 and 1964, served as a Professor of Physics at The Ohio State University and spent 21 years on the faculty of the United States Military Academy at West Point. He was the first African American to be named President of the American Association of Physics Teachers and has served as President of the National Society of Black Physicists. He has also published a large number of papers in Physics Teacher, Physics Today, and the American Journal of Physics and has been guest speaker at many scientific events and conferences.
Hulon L. Willis, Sr. Open or Close
Hulon Willis, Sr., VSU Class of 1949, became the first African American to be admitted as a graduate student in physical education at the College of William & Mary in 1951 and later became the first African-American alumnus of William & Mary in 1956. In 1982, a constituent group within the College of William & Mary Alumni Association formed the Hulon Willis Alumni Association in his honor.
Hulon was also renowned in the martial arts and is credited with founding karate in the southern tri-city of Virginia in the early 1960's. A highly regarded and respected instructor, administrator and prominent tournament official, he is considered a pioneer in the history of Virginia karate. He instructed karata at Virginia State University where he served for almost thirty-five years as an Assistant Professor of Health, Physical Education, athletic coach (wrestling and football) and Director of Campus Police and Security. He developed and instructed the Defensive Tactics and Weaponless Control Program for the Virginia State Police and Virginia Criminal Justice Services and taught the program to law enforcement instructors around the country.
Mary C. Wyatt Open or Close
Mary C. Wyatt, VSU Class of 1970, served as Vice President for Academic Affairs at Savannah State University. Prior to joining Savannah State, she served as president of Roanoke-Chowan Community College in Ahoskie, NC from 2001-2005.