Roanoke College has received a $1.5 million endowment gift from Trustee Joanne Leonhardt Cassullo ’78 to support the College’s Center for Studying Structures of Race. The Center for Studying Structures of Race conducts a variety of research, programming and educational activities.
Cassullo has been a member of Roanoke College’s Board of Trustees since 1999 and is one of the longest-serving trustees at the college.
In addition to her trustee role, Cassullo is a Lifetime Distinguished Associate and supports myriad projects that benefit the College. In 2004, she established the Joanne Leonhardt Cassullo Professorship in Art History, which allowed the College to offer a major in art history. In 2017, she established the Joanne Leonhardt Cassullo Center for Art. Cassullo received the Roanoke College Medal, Roanoke’s highest honor for alumni, in 2008.
The Center for Studying Structures of Race (CSSR) was established in 2019 to serve as a venue for teaching, research and community engagement about issues of race. The center emphasizes the examination of forms of institutional racism at local, national and international levels. Cassullo’s extraordinary gift will support academic programming, public lectures, exhibits, performances, conferences and workshops, student-faculty research projects, course development and staffing at the center. It will also further support interpretation of the planned memorial to enslaved persons and other historical structures on and around the Roanoke College campus. Additionally, the fund will allow for the development, expansion and utilization of the CSSR’s Maurice Berger Memorial Archive and Library.
At least 18 faculty members are involved with the CSSR as staff or faculty affiliates. The center sponsored the Virginia Conference on Race last academic year, hosted the Memorials, Monuments & Memory lecture series, entered a partnership with Creative Time to create a community-centered memorial to enslaved people from southwest Virginia, established the Maurice Berger Memorial Archive and Library, and created exchanges with the W.E.B. Du Bois Center at UMass Amherst and The Institute for the Study of Canadian Slavery at Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. The CSSR’s activities have been shaped by students who have played integral roles in conceptualizing and launching new research projects. This includes the Genealogy of Slavery project, which focuses on uncovering and interpreting the history of Roanoke College and the surrounding region.
Cassullo is the director of the Dorothea L. Leonhardt Foundation, Inc., which is a private philanthropic foundation. In addition, she is a former Helena Rubinstein Fellow in Museum Studies at the Whitney Museum of American Art where she has been a trustee since 1985. She was awarded the Aperture Foundation Award in 2007 and the Fort Worth Country Day Falcon Star Award in 2014, and she was honored for her years of service at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 2018.