Virginia State University officials held a recent groundbreaking ceremony for a new building that will be its most expensive building to date.
Virginia State’s new $120 million Academic Commons building will replace a demolished academic building and the campus gymnasium. It will be called the College of Humanities and Social Sciences and the College of Education.
The new 174,000 square-foot-facility will be named after Alfred W. Harris, the son of two free Fairfax-born African-Americans, who relocated to Alexandria, where he attended a school operated by the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, as well as the city’s first segregated public schools. At age 20, he won a seat on the Alexandria common council. He earned his law degree at Howard University in 1881 and moved to Petersburg to practice law. His name will grace the new campus building that is expected to be completed in late 2024.
In 2008, the Virginia State University Alumni Association established a scholarship that honors Harris, who served as the first secretary of the board of visitors for Virginia State University. His papers are stored in special collection at Johnston Memorial Library, Virginia State University.