Long-time VCU leader Dr. Grace Harris dies at 84

Photo source: Allen Jones, University Marketing

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Dr. Grace Harris, a VCU pioneer and the first black female chief academic officer at a public university in Richmond, has died.

Dr. Harris passed away Monday. She was 84.

Dr. Harris began work with the school that would become known as VCU in 1967. VCU News said she eventually advanced to the position of provost and vice president for academic affairs, becoming the first African-American woman to serve in that role at a four-year public college in Virginia.

She also served as dean of the School of Social Work in the 1980s, and served as acting school president in 1995 and again in 1998.

She retired from her role as provost in 1999, and retired as a professor in 2015. She is a recipient of the VCU Presidential Medallion Award, and has honorary degrees from Virginia Union University, the University of Richmond and William and Mary.

Dr. Harris is survived by her husband James “Dick” Harris, and her two adult children, Gayle and James. In a statement, Senator Tim Kaine said “Dr. Harris used her lifetime of groundbreaking service to help cultivate and elevate emerging leaders.

“When I was Governor, Dr. Harris provided keen insight into university administration and offered invaluable guidance as I made appointments to Virginia public college boards. Her contributions have benefited VCU and Richmond as well as schools and communities throughout the Commonwealth.

“I am very sad to hear of her passing, and I offer her family my condolences.”

Find 8News on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram; send your news tips to iReport8@wric.com.