VSU to receive a Half Million Dollars from Relative of University Trailblazer
VIRGINIA STATE UNIVERSITY, VA—Virginia State University will receive a $500,000 gift from Dr. Audrey Shields Penn, 88, in honor of her aunt and VSU trailblazer, Ms. Otelia Roberta Shields Howard.
“This gift from Dr. Penn is an example of the residuals of good deeds. In 2021, we renamed four buildings on campus to honor Black women who made history at Virginia State University. Ms. Howard was one of those women,” said Tonya Hall, VSU Vice President for External Relations. “The donation, given in her memory, will go a long way toward supporting the greater that happens here at Virginia State University.”
Ms. Otelia Howard, a Petersburg native, served Virginia State University for more than two decades as a professor, advisor, and a charter member of two organizations on campus. Her niece, Dr. Penn, pledged to donate to the University after hearing news of her aunt being honored by VSU.
Dr. Audrey Penn is a neurologist and the first Black woman to become acting director of a branch of the National Institute of Health. In 1995, she became the Deputy Director of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) where she served for 10 years and helped establish a Specialized Neuroscience Research Program for minorities. She also taught at Columbia University and focused her research on myasthenia gravis, a neuromuscular disease.
“I am appreciative to VSU for honoring my aunt with the rare distinction of a campus building which bears her name. It is my pleasure to give to VSU to continue to push the mission of providing a transformative education to deserving students,” says Dr. Penn. “My gift will honor my aunt by funding an annual scholarship to continue to cultivate and support students as my aunt did more than seventy years ago.”
The VSU Office of Institutional Advancement (IA) welcomes all financial gifts as it works to purposefully build a solid foundation in higher education advancement work at VSU. The IA mission is to serve Virginia State University through the development, cultivation, solicitation, and engagement of our philanthropic partners who provide financial support which advances the academic and student experience at the University.