Richmond, Va.
Friday, Oct. 24, 2014

VCU dedicates new high-rise residence hall in honor of university’s first president

Thursday, Aug. 25, 2005

Esther C. Brandt (center) and Warren W. Brandt admire the newly unveiled portrait of Brandt, VCU’s first president, which will hang on the east wall of the Community Room, located on the first floor of Brandt Hall. Lois E. Trani (left), Henry G. Rhone, VCU vice provost for student affairs and enrollment services, and VCU President Eugene P. Trani lead the applause. Photo by Allen Jones, VCU Creative Services

Virginia Commonwealth University has dedicated Warren W. Brandt Hall, a $28 million, 17-story residence hall on the Monroe Park Campus, in honor of its first president.

FACTS ON VCU’S BRANDT HALL

• $28 million, 17-story, high-rise residence hall located at 710 W. Franklin St.

• Brandt Hall will house 624 students -- 608 freshmen and 16 resident assistants in a suite configuration

• All rooms are air conditioned and furnished with low-loft twin beds, dressers, closets, desks and chairs

• All rooms are wired for Internet, telephone and cable television

• Suites – a pair of double occupancy bedrooms with a shared bathroom -- are connected to communal living rooms. Some living rooms are connected to two rooms, some to four. Suite living rooms have sofa, dining table and chairs

• Brandt Hall becomes the companion tower to Rhoads Hall, with both sharing a common entrance, computer lab, community room, TV lounge, mailroom and front office

• Named for VCU’s first president, Warren W. Brandt, who served from June 1969 through October 1974

• State-of-the-art fire safety equipment ensures that rooms are equipped with sprinklers, and the stairwells are pressurized to keep them smoke-free in the event of a fire. The stairwell has a landing on each floor that has a designated “area of rescue assistance” with an intercom that reports centrally to the building lobby

• The entrance for Brandt and Rhoads halls has a security desk, staffed 24 hours a day. Students are required to swipe their student ID cards and permit inspection by the security team to confirm that the face on the card and the cardholder matches. A series of cameras monitor the entry and exit points, lobby and mailroom areas. Visitors need a picture ID and must be signed in by their student host

• Design features of note include bay windows that offer an expanded view of West Franklin Street and a stylized DNA double helix pattern in the brick patio and walkway

• A pergola, in this case, a series of columns with a trellis for a roof, creates a formal entry point at the corner of West Franklin and Laurel streets for Brandt Hall’s courtyard and is a visual transition from the street to the residence area

• The Victorian era (circa 1880s) wrought iron fence along the front is a holdover from the Scott house located at 712 W. Franklin St. and owned by the grandparents of Mary Wingfield Scott, regarded as Richmond’s foremost architectural historian from the 1940s through 1980. At one time, that house served as the first Johnson Hall, a men’s dorm at the then-Richmond Professional Institute that later was razed when the block was cleared to make way for Rhoads Hall in the 1960s

• VCU built the base of Brandt with lighter color brick to relate the scale of the high rise to the scale of the historic townhouses on West Franklin Street. The eave height of Williams House (adjacent on Franklin Street) is the same height as the light colored brick

• Designers also added a variety of textures, precast and brick, at the base for added interest at pedestrian level

VCU’s newest residence hall features suite-style rooms and co-ed floors and is home to more than 600 freshmen students. The high-rise, located at 710 W. Franklin St., has bay windows that offer an expanded view of West Franklin Street and Monroe Park, and a stylized DNA double helix pattern in the brick patio and walkway.

Warren W. Brandt, Ph.D., served as president of VCU from June 1969 through October 1974. He was selected from a field of 200 candidates to lead the new university, formed when the Richmond Professional Institute and the Medical College of Virginia merged.

“As with any change of that magnitude, there were many pressing issues to handle, from setting up a new governance system, to addressing budgetary issues, to dealing with faculty concerns – including considerable resistance to the merger on the part of some faculty,” said VCU President Eugene P. Trani, Ph.D.

“Dr. Brandt skillfully combined his knowledge and abilities as a researcher, professor and administrator to successfully lead Virginia Commonwealth University as its first president from 1969 to 1974,” Trani said. “He set the stage and created a strong foundation for the tremendous growth that we have experienced since his time here.”

During Brandt’s tenure, 32 degree programs were added, and two new schools were established — the School of Allied Health Professions and the School of Community Services. In addition, more than $20 million of new construction was completed or under way on both campuses, including the James Branch Cabell Library, Rhoads Hall, the School of Business building, the Larrick Student Center and a large addition to Sanger Hall.

During a dedication ceremony on Aug. 24, Brandt acknowledged the challenge he faced in taking the helm at a fledgling institution.

"There was no central administration when we started, no vice presidents,” he said. “All that had to be put in place.

“Students were protesting on college campuses all over the country and we had some of that too,” he added. “I spent a lot of nights on the streets because of student protests."

As VCU president, Brandt forged relationships with community leaders in an effort to better integrate VCU into the community. And under his leadership, the student body reached 17,000, for a time making VCU the largest institution of higher learning in Virginia.

“I am so flattered for this honor, especially to have my name on a tower that in many ways symbolizes VCU, reaching for the stars,” Brandt said.

Brandt finished as class valedictorian while earning his undergraduate degree in chemistry from Michigan State University. He earned a doctoral degree in chemistry from the University of Illinois. Brandt served on the faculty at Purdue University from 1949 to 1961, and during that time spent a year at Oxford University as a Guggenheim Fellow. From 1961 to 1963, he was the head of the Department of Chemistry and associate dean at Kansas State University. In 1964, he was named vice president and later executive vice president at Virginia Tech.