Everyday students attend classes in buildings that are named after people who are have important contribution to the university, yet rarely investigate the history of those people.
Students had the rare opportunity to meet the namesake of a VCU building Monday when Thomas Snead, who the business school Snead Hall is named after, spoke at The Depot. The VCU Startup sponsored event allowed him to talk to students about his career and what they can do to further enable them to pursue their dreams.
He encouraged students to never completely close the door on anything, even if the experience was a negative. He advised students to stick through tough situations and analyze what they learned and how they can get better from it. Snead also suggested that students should be open-minded and take advantages of any opportunities that they encounter.
VCU became Snead’s alma mater in 1976 when he graduated with a degree in accounting. After college, he began working at Blue Cross health insurance firm and worked on a variety of projects that primarily involved assisting smaller companies. He was eventually promoted to CFO of the company in 1990. After that promotion he spent three years converting the company to a stock company. Snead was promoted to CEO and merged the company with Anthem before “cashing in his chips” in 2007.
Snead and his wife were also the co-chairs of the Campaign for VCU. This campaign began in 2004 and was deemed the most ambitious and extensive capital campaign in the university’s history. The Campaign for VCU was composed of 20 mini-campaigns, including the School of Business campaign, that were used to create new buildings, increase endowed funds and increased professor job positions. The Snead’s campaign raised $410 million , which was double of any previous campaign.
Snead fondly recalled the moment the decision was made to name VCU’s new business school after him. He was on the board of visitors committee that approved the naming opportunities for parts of the building. During one particular meeting he was asked to step outside of the room. He called his wife while outside and told her they were probably going to get a plaque outside the building. When Snead walked back in, the rest of the committee was standing and clapping, and the chairman of the committee congratulated him.
“He told me what it was for and I was for once in my life speechless. What an honor, and to this day I find it hard to believe that our name is on that building,” Snead said.
He is currently serves on the board of the Virginia Historical Society, the Community Foundation and ChildFund International.
“To this day VCU is top of my mind . Not a day goes by where I don’t wear something with VCU or ‘Havoc’ on it,” Snead said. “This place did for me what I never imagined could be done for any human.”
Jack Alden, president of VCU Startup, felt that it was a no-brainer to bring Snead in to give a talk.
“Thomas Snead is a very involved and influential person in the city here, he’s been in the city since the ‘70s and has really helped contribute to the growth of the city,” Alden said. “We really wanted to have somebody that has really given back. And it really meant alot [for him] to come and share his story. It may not be the most entrepreneurial story, but it really rings true some of the underlying messages: hard work and following the journey wherever the path may take you.”
Wave Wheat is a senior accounting major who started his own clothing line this fall. When a friend told him that VCU alum Snead was talking he jumped at the opportunity and said the speech left him with higher aspirations for his own business.
“This was a great opportunity to hear the man, Mr. Snead himself, speak. And as a business major, and a marketing major I couldn’t help but take advantage,” said Wheat.