Ralph Reavis Sr., former president of Virginia University of Lynchburg, died on February 2. He was 80 years old.
A native of Brunswick County, Virginia, Reavis was born into a family of 17 children. He was ordained as a minister at the age of 18 and attended what was then called Virginia Seminary and College in Lynchburg, where he majored in sociology. While in college he participated in the civil rights movement, spending time in jail after being arrested at a protest to desegregate lunchcounters in Lynchburg.
Rev. Reavis went on to earn master’s degrees from Virginia Union University and the Union Theological Seminary in Richmond. Later, he was the first African American to earn a Ph.D. in religious studies at the University of Virginia.
Dr. Reavis was the pastor of several churches and taught for more than two decades at Virginia Union University. In 2000, he was named president of his alma mater, now called Virginia University of Lynchburg. At the time, the school had just 32 students and was in a dire financial position. Dr. Reavis secured accreditation from the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools, shored up the school’s finances, and boosted enrollment.
According to the U.S. Department of Education’s latest data, there are now 225 undergraduate and more than 40 graduate students enrolled. Blacks make up 97 percent of the undergraduate student body.