Letter from the President
By Paul A. Levengood, President and Chief Executive Officer
On August 22, 2010, the Virginia Historical Society lost one of its best friends and most enthusiastic supporters with the passing of Lora M. Robins. In this, of course, we were not alone. For the list of causes adopted by Lora Robins during her extraordinarily generous life was long and diverse, ranging from education to art to horticulture.
But it is to Mrs. Robins’s passion for preserving the evidence of the past that we at the VHS can best attest. Although a native Texan, Lora Robins fully embraced the rich history of her adopted Virginia home. Her relationship with the society began in the late 1980s after then board chairman Jack McElroy invited her husband, Claiborne Robins, Sr., to visit the VHS. Soon after that introduction, Mrs. Robins added the VHS to the list of Richmond causes to which she dedicated her time and energy.
The support of Mrs. Robins and the Robins family hardly needs to be described, but suffice to say it has transformed this institution. The number of VHS places and programs that bear the Robins family name are testament to this fact. But the ones that are specifically attached to the name of Lora Robins deserve special mention, because they say something about her life and her passions. A number of years ago, she learned that no museum was actively collecting Virginia landscapes. Then in her quiet, unassuming way she made sure that the VHS rectified that by purchasing for us more than one hundred paintings and other objects. We are all the fortunate beneficiaries of her decision that married her love of things beautiful with a deep interest in Virginia history. Similarly, to ensure that the wonderful collection of art included in the society’s holdings be properly shared and interpreted, she endowed the position of Lora M. Robins Curator of Art. The fine work of Dr. William M. S. Rasmussen over the years is the legacy of Mrs. Robins’s wisdom. And finally, in recognition of the role that Mrs. Robins played in building and displaying our collections, when in 2000 the VHS created its only award for collecting the evidence of Virginia’s past, there seemed only one way to name it: the Lora Robins Award.
It is surely my loss that I did not have the opportunity to get to know Mrs. Robins better. I know I would have learned much from her. But I am touched by the depth of her commitment and generosity to this grand institution. And of course I am grateful that she passed down her general civic-mindedness and her love for the VHS to her family. Her son, Claiborne Robins, Jr., has long been a stalwart member and is a former chairman of this board, and the support of the Robins Foundation has been critical to our success. So, it is with a heavy heart that we wish farewell to Lora Robins. But the small part of her legacy that resides here at the VHS reminds us that her spirit will always endure.
Posted September 2010
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