Letter from the President
Looking Back, Looking Ahead
By Charles F. Bryan, Jr., President and Chief Executive Officer
As we move toward our 175th anniversary next year, I'm increasingly mindful of our long history as an institution. The passing of four remarkable individuals in the last few weeks underscores both that history and the inexorable march of time. In December, we lost a loyal former trustee, historian Edgar Allan Toppin, and our distinguished director emeritus, John Melville Jennings. In the early days of the new year, we learned of the deaths of former trustee and former state senator Hunter Andrews and of former trustee and honorary vice president Mary Tyler McClenahan.
Ed Toppin blazed a notable trail as a nationally known expert on black history and long-time professor at Virginia State University. John Jennings was another towering figure in our past. It is impossible to consider what the VHS accomplished in the middle of the last century without thinking of him. Hunter Andrews, a larger-than-life figure in the state senate, championed state support for public education. Through her father, historian Douglas Southall Freeman, Mary Tyler McClenahan provided a link to the time when the VHS acquired Battle Abbey from the Confederate Memorial Institute. More importantly, she exemplified the best of volunteer civic leadership in the metro Richmond community. She stood head and shoulders above an impressive group of benefactors.
It is only natural that at the passing of four such distinctive individuals, who all influenced us as an institution, we should pause to reflect on their contributions to our past achievements. And yet, I'm sure they would all want us to focus firmly on the future as we gladly accept the legacy they have bequeathed us and strive forward.
Posted February 2005
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