Richard Toscan to Retire as Dean of the Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts

Toscan led the VCU Arts School to national prominence

Richard Toscan, Ph.D.
Richard Toscan, Ph.D.

Richard Toscan, Ph.D., who in 14 years led the Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts to recognition as one of the best arts programs in the United States, today announced his retirement as dean, effective June 30, 2010.

While Toscan was dean, the school’s rankings in the U.S. News & World Report rankings of America’s Best Graduate Schools grew from 25th to fourth overall, and to the No.1 public university arts program in the nation. He also conceived and guided the development of VCU’s art and design campus in Qatar’s Education City. 

“The 14 years I have spent as dean of the School of the Arts have been by far the most rewarding of my 40-year career in university administration,” Toscan said. “I have had an amazing team of faculty and students to work with as we built VCUArts into one of the nation’s great schools of the arts and design.” 

In addition to dean of the Arts School, Toscan also served as vice provost for International Education, overseeing the VCU Qatar campus and the development and expansion of VCU’s international education programs. 

“VCU has greatly benefitted from the accomplishments of the School of Arts under Dean Toscan’s leadership,” said VCU President Michael Rao. “The excellent reputation of the Arts School helped draw us to VCU.”

Toscan currently is past president of the International Council of Fine Arts Deans and, in Richmond, is a member of the board of RPAC, LLC, which is responsible for construction and operational oversight of Richmond CenterStage, including the Landmark Theater. He also has served for many years on the board of Richmond Ballet.

Prior to joining VCU as dean in 1996, he was dean of Fine and Performing Arts at Portland State University in Oregon, where he also was the founding chair of the Portland Downtown Cultural District. Much of his early career was spent at the University of Southern California, where he was involved for most of two decades in the management of its theater program, eventually being named dean of the USC School of Theatre. During his tenure as dean at USC, the national profile of that program grew to the point where it was routinely paired with Yale and Juilliard as the nation’s leading conservatory programs in the field.

Toscan was executive producer of the original Star Wars Radio Series, a joint production of Lucasfilm, the BBC and National Public Radio. The 13-part series aired around the world for a decade beginning in 1981 and is credited with increasing the audience for public radio in America by 40 percent.

Toscan said he is looking forward to continuing his community interests in the arts, including development of a new art gallery for VCU, as well as writing and traveling.  He and his wife, Sharon Walker, will maintain their residence in Richmond.

About VCU and VCU Medical Center

Virginia Commonwealth University is a major, urban public research university with national and international rankings in sponsored research. Located in downtown Richmond, VCU enrolls more than 31,000 students in 226 degree and certificate programs in the arts, sciences and humanities. Sixty-seven of the programs are unique in Virginia, many of them crossing the disciplines of VCU’s 13 schools and one college. MCV Hospitals and the health sciences schools of Virginia Commonwealth University comprise VCU Medical Center, one of the nation’s leading academic medical centers. For more, see