News & Features » Miscellany

Part 10

100 Movers And Shapers

Miller & Rhoads Santa Claus
Richmond really is lucky: After all, we have the real Santa Claus. More than 50 years ago, at the beginning of the holiday season, Santa dropped with a merry thud through the chimney of the downtown Miller & Rhoads department store. Immediately Richmond's children embraced the jolly elf - despite his rather suspect northern heritage - and recognized him as the ever-timely and tireless Saint Nick. When Miller & Rhoads closed its doors in 1990, the city of Richmond and Downtown Presents made sure Santa still had a seasonal Richmond home. Santa has enlisted the help of many friends throughout the years. Arthur Hood, a fellow carpenter, was enlisted for his striking likeness to Santa and served as one of his helpers for 34 years. Hood died last month at age 77. Santa thanks him dearly for his spirit and service.

Raymond H. Boone
(1938- ) b. Suffolk
As founder, editor and publisher of the Richmond Free Press, Ray Boone has been a crusader for racial justice. He says his greatest accomplishment as editor and publisher of the Free Press is "bringing a halt to the deplorable situation of one conservative daily newspaper controlling Richmond's news agenda." Boone says he would like to be remembered "as a newspaperman who fought for freedom and justice until the very end."

Eugene P. Trani
(1939- ) b. Brooklyn, N.Y.
In the last decade of the century, it would be difficult to find anyone who has changed Richmond more than Eugene P. Trani, president of Virginia Commonwealth University. With VCU's 23,125 students, 14,796 employees and a $1.2 billion budget, Trani operates more like a big-city mayor than a university president. His fingers are in pies all over town - from academic circles to big business and economic development, from fund-raising and biotechnology research to primary and secondary public education and civic organizations. He concurs with that assessment: "There's no question in my mind that being president of a major research university is like being the mayor of a city."

Taking that approach, Trani says, is the only way to forge "the new universities of the 21st century." They must be institutions which are mutually dependent on the community around them. "What I believe the most important thing that I and my colleagues have been able to do is marry VCU and MCV into this community so that the thriving of the Richmond metropolitan area [is directly tied to] the thriving of VCU and MCV" and vice versa, he says.

Trani's lasting imprint on Richmond may be not only a physical one - with nearly $60 million in construction on Broad Street, a new engineering building and $175 million in construction at MCV Hospitals this year - but economic and intellectual as well. By the time his contract runs out in 2005 and he steps down as president, he has said, he wants VCU students to be receiving a technologically based education, no matter what their discipline is. Much of his focus has been on technology with the Virginia Biotechnology Park and the new school of engineering in hopes it will spark a technological economic boom for the region. That kind of thinking keeps the eyes of Richmond's other movers and shapers squarely on Gene Trani.

Arthur Ashe
(1943-1993) b. Richmond
Working his way up from the segregated tennis courts of Richmond in Brookfield Park, Arthur Ashe became a world-famous sports icon as the first black to win the U.S. Open and Wimbledon. But he was equally well- known for his crusading social activism and eloquence. In 1963, at the age of 20, he broke the first of many barriers, becoming the first black on the U.S. Davis Cup team. His cerebral assessments of his opponents led to his greatest victory in 1975, when he defeated Jimmy Connors to take the trophy at Wimbledon. Though Ashe's career was ended by a heart attack in 1979, he used his fame to bring attention to his social activism against Apartheid and other issues. He authored several books including "A Hard Road To Glory," his history of black athletes.

In 1992, Ashe disclosed he was dying of AIDS after contracting HIV from a blood transfusion. He became a crusader for AIDS research and put a human face on a stigmatized disease, dramatically outlined in his memoir, "Days of Glory."

After his death national controversy erupted over the erection of a monument to Ashe alongside the icons of the Confederacy on Monument Avenue.

Jeff MacNelly
(1947- ) b. New York, N.Y.
When political cartoonist Jeff MacNelly started at the Richmond News Leader in 1970, he was something of a maverick - a conservative, Republican cartoonist in a liberal age.

But MacNelly's talent prevailed over the political climate of the times. His cynical point of view, biting, satiric wit and skilled drawing were recognized in 1972 with a Pulitzer Prize. MacNelly received another Pulitzer while at the News Leader in 1978 and again in 1985 for his work at the Chicago Tribune.

Although MacNelly left the News Leader in 1981, his cartoons are still seen by Richmonders - and readers of more than 1,000 other newspapers - every day in his syndicated political cartoons, his daily comic strip "Shoe," and accompanying Dave Barry's weekly syndicated column.

MacNelly has also twice received the Reuben Award, the National Cartoonists Society's highest honor. Today, MacNelly works from his home in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Bruce Miller
(1950- ) b. Richmond
and Phil Whiteway
(1952- ) b. Mt. Holly, N.J.
In 1975, as artistic director and managing director respectively, they co-founded their nonprofit adult and children's theater company, Theatre IV. It's now the largest professional theatre in the state and one of the largest children's theater companies in the country. Theatre IV is known for its community outreach programs, which use theater to educate children on issues including sexual abuse, substance abuse and teen pregnancy. The company's annual budget is nearly $4 million, and over 1,400,000 people attend the Theatre IV productions every year.

Sidney J. Gunst Jr.
(1951- ) b. Richmond
"I wanted to do something different and something that was my own," says Sidney Gunst, who in 1979 established Innsbrook Corporation and built the successful, mixed-use, 850-acre development in Glen Allen. He was only 29 at the time and working for another Richmond development company. "It was a hard sell," he said recently of his dream of "a better place for people to live, work and play." He says it took him two years to "make the sale." But Richmond investors David Arenstein and Henry Stern came up with backing. Today, Innsbrook is the closest thing Richmond has to an edge city, with 8,000 employees working at 400 companies that occupy 5 million square feet of space. Gunst says Innsbrook has not yet matured - there's room for another 3 million square feet of office space and another 5,000 employees.

Dr. Lisa G. Kaplowitz
(1951-) Philadelphia, Pa.
Kaplowitz is the director of the HIV/AIDS Center of Virginia Commonwealth University's Medical College of Virginia Hospitals. She is known in the Richmond community and throughout Central Virginia for her work with AIDS patients and education. She helped found the Care Consortium, an AIDS service provider in the Richmond area. In 1996, Dr. Kaplowitz was one of six health care experts in the nation selected for a Robert Wood Johnson Health Policy Fellowship, where she worked with W.Va. Sen. Jay Rockefeller on long-term affordable health care.

"Lisa has been an influential driving force in the Central Virginia AIDS community from the standpoint of policy, service and program development. She is one of the AIDS/HIV care provider pioneers in the area," says Jim Beckner, executive director for the Fan Free Clinic.

"We have come a long way in the last 18 years in terms of HIV treatment," Kaplowitz says. "One hope is that someday we can have an effective vaccine to help stop the spread and eradicate the virus."

Patricia Daniels Cornwell
(1956-), b. Miami, Fla.
Bestseller Patricia Cornwell writes murder mysteries that keep you up at night. She's also done her homework for believable suspense stories. Cornwell spent vast amounts of time observing at the State Coroner's Office. Her heroine, Kay Scarpetta, makes for table talk at garden club meetings and springs up as fodder at church socials. Cornwell's list of top-10-ers includes "The Body Farm," "Cause of Death," "From Potter's Field," "Hornet's Nest," "Point of Origin," "Scarpetta's Winter Table," " Southern Cross," and "Unnatural Exposure." An endorser of Virginia Blood Services, the resolutely private Cornwell lives in New York and Richmond.

(1985- ) b. Richmond
What's Richmond really known for? GWAR, the twice-Grammy-nominated "most disgusting band in the world." Formed by VCU art school grads, this outrageously costumed group mixes humor and hard rock with lots and lots of fake blood to create its phallus-dominated S&M sci-fi super-hero theatrics. Banned from London after advertising discounted tickets for teens bearing their mothers' severed heads, the controversial band hasn't played Richmond since a naked golfing incident a few years ago. With eight albums under its spiked belt, GWAR brings national recognition to Richmond's music

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