Designed by Virginia State Alumna, Amaza Lee Meredith, Azurest South serves as the official headquarters of the Virginia State University alumni association. Meredith lived in this home until her death in 1984 and was one of the nation's first certified African-American female architects. In addition to her work as an architect, Meredith was a teacher the founder of Fine Arts Department at Virginia State. The name of the home is a reference to Azurest North a small community of Long Island vacation homes Meredith and other black architects designed for other middle-class black families. These clusters of black homes in Long Island reflected both the informal patterns of segregated living that characterized northern communities and the importance of black architects, investors, and agents that created opportunities for black families.
State University was
founded on March 6, 1882 as the Virginia Normal and College Institute after the
state legislature passed a bill sponsored by Delegate Alfred W. Harris, a black
attorney, which chartered the university.
The state established the university to serve the needs of a population
that was at the time excluded from other public institutions in Virginia. Virginia Normal and College Institute opened
as a teacher training college for both male and female black students, but it
also included a modest liberal arts curriculum.
The campus opened
on October 1, 1883 the University had 126 students and seven faculty, one
building, 33 acres, a 200-book library, and a $20,000 budget. And now it has a
student body of over 5,000 students, including 500 graduate students, and over
250 faculty members. It has a library containing 200,000 books and 360,000
microform and non-print items, a 236-acre campus and 416-acre farm, more than
50 buildings, including 15 dormitories and 16 classroom buildings, and a
biennial budget of $31,000,000, exclusive of capital outlay. Virginia State University has degree granting
programs in four undergraduate schools and college and a School of Graduate
Studies, Research and Outreach.
The school changed
its name to Virginia Normal and Industrial Institute in 1902 after the state
legislature revised the charter and curtailed the liberal arts program. In
1920, the state moved its land-grant program for blacks from private Hampton
Institute to Virginia Normal and Industrial College. The college program was restored in 1923 and
the school was renamed the Virginia State College for Negroes in 1930. The
college opened a two-year branch campus in Norfolk in 1944, which would later
gain its independence and become a four-year institute known as Norfolk State
College. In 1946, the school was renamed Virginia State College and finally, in
1979, the state legislature passed a law that renamed the institution to its
current name of Virginia State University.
The university's most prominent
alumni include Reginald Lewis, former owner of TLC Beatrice International,
William H. Lewis, first African American Assistant Attorney General, James
Avery, actor, Billy Taylor, jazz musician, and Dr. Mary Hatwood Futrell, former
president of the National Education Association