Dr. Eugene Trani, president emeritus of VCU.

In January, Eugene P. Trani will end a five-year initiative called Richmond's Future that produced 14 studies on the challenges and opportunities facing the Richmond and Tri-Cities region.

The group has highlighted the economic development opportunities presented by the logistics hubs of Fort Lee and the Port of Richmond, the rise of advanced manufacturing, and the role of arts and culture, and has promoted a higher education corridor along Interstate 64 through the heart of Virginia.

"It did what I wanted it to do," said Trani, president emeritus of Virginia Commonwealth University and chairman of Richmond's Future, which he founded in 2010.

Trani has been anything but retiring after completing an extraordinary 19-year tenure as president of VCU in 2009.

A historian by training, he has co-authored three books, including one with former VCU political science professor Robert D. Holsworth titled "The Indispensable University: Higher Education, Economic Development and the Knowledge Economy."

He is working on two more books, including a history of VCU from its founding in 1968 through the era of "Tranivision," in which he transformed both the university and the city around it.

This year, Trani was co-chairman of a task force that recommended ways of increasing the enrollment of African-American students from the Richmond region, and he waded into the contentious political debate over the establishment of a children's hospital in Richmond by endorsing a plan to build an inpatient facility at VCU's downtown medical campus.

He explained his decision to embrace a children's hospital at VCU in an Op/Ed column for the Richmond Times-Dispatch in September. "In the time I was president of VCU (1990-2009), I tried three times unsuccessfully to get a children's hospital built," he wrote.

As president, Trani rarely failed to achieve his goals, which he pursued with a merciless intensity. With the backing of philanthropist businessman William H. Goodwin Jr. - the leader of the effort to establish a children's hospital that would be independent of VCU and other hospital systems - he established a school of engineering at VCU and expanded the university's presence to help redevelop downtown Richmond.

He is proudest of his efforts to bring VCU's Monroe Park and Medical College of Virginia campuses "together as one university of which we are all proud" - though he admits in an aside that "VCU basketball was a big help."

Trani also hasn't retired from the classroom. He is teaching an honors course for undergraduates called "Leadership and Society," which includes a new favorite book by Dr. Steven B. Sample called "The Contrarian's Guide to Leadership."

"As the title indicates, it offers a unique perspective of leadership, which I think is good for our students," he said.


Position: president emeritus, VCU; chairman, Richmond's Future

Born/hometown: Nov. 2, 1939; Philadelphia

College: University of Notre Dame (bachelor's in history), Indiana University (master's in history, doctorate in American history)

Family: wife Lois, daughter Anne, son Frank, five grandchildren


A small moment in life with a big impact

I will never forget where I was the morning of Sept. 11, 2001. I had just convened a board meeting of the VCU Health System when we got the horrific news about the attacks on the World Trade Center. As stunned as we were, I think all of us in that boardroom realized that being together at that terrible moment, as a body of colleagues and friends, was a comfort to us. I turned to then Del. Dwight Jones, a member of the board, and asked him to lead us in a moment of prayer.

Something that might surprise others

For decades I collected golf ball markers, which actually became such a large collection (16,000) that it outgrew our home, and I recently donated it to the Virginia State Golf Association and First Tee as a permanent exhibit, in the hope it would help interest kids in the game of golf.

Something you'd like to do

Come close to shooting par on a round of golf. Unfortunately, this is a lost cause.

Role model

There are three individuals I have looked to as mentors and role models: Dr. Steven B. Sample, 10th president of the University of Southern California; Dr. Kenneth Shaw, 10th chancellor and president of Syracuse University; and Dr. Robert Ferrell, a brilliant historian and educator, who was my academic mentor at Indiana University. Throughout my career as both an administrator and as an academic, I have tried to keep the principles and work ethic of these three men in mind.

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