Acuff commitment will benefit VIMS and W&M Alumni House

A. Marshall Acuff, Jr. ’62, L.H.D. ’07 has made a $5 million commitment to advance shellfish aquaculture research at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science and to help fund expansion of William & Mary’s Alumni House.

Acuff’s investment in VIMS will help position Virginia as No. 1 worldwide in sustainable shellfish aquaculture. Shellfish science from VIMS underpins the commonwealth’s $32.3 million clam industry on the Eastern Shore and is driving the significant recent growth in the oyster industry. 

“Marshall Acuff’s extremely generous gift will help VIMS cement its place at the forefront of marine research,” says W&M President Taylor Reveley, “while also providing an elegant space for alumni to gather at William & Mary’s Alumni House. We are very grateful."

Most of the gift—more than $4 million—will establish an endowed professorship focusing on aquaculture research at VIMS and also significantly bolster the institute’s Oyster Disease Research Fund. The Fund was created in honor of Acuff’s father, who was an oyster grower on the Eastern Shore. 

Additionally, the gift will allow VIMS to deploy students in rapid-response research for the local aquaculture industry and enhance the institute’s capacity to provide timely scientific advice to the community.

A waterman retrieves an oyster bag from a local waterway. © K. Rebenstorf.“Historically, VIMS is a hidden gem in terms of the resources it provides to the commonwealth,” says Acuff. “In addition to the advisory services it provides to the state, VIMS is doing real research that makes a difference to citizens of Virginia and the world.”

Senior officials at VIMS note that in light of the Trump Administration’s recent budget proposal—which, if enacted, could reduce VIMS’ external funding by approximately 25 percent—gifts like Marshall Acuff's come at a critical time.

“I am grateful for Marshall’s confidence in the quality, importance, and economic relevance of our work,” says VIMS Dean and Director John Wells. “He has made and continues to make important contributions to VIMS, and his leadership and passion make him the perfect chair for VIMS’ most ambitious fundraising campaign to date.”

Acuff, currently the managing director at Silvercrest Asset Management LLC in Richmond, served as W&M rector from 1996 to 2000 and currently chairs the VIMS campaign committee. Wells says “It is not every day that a former rector agrees to come back to chair a school’s campaign. Marshall’s leadership will be integral to the campaign’s success.”

Alumni House

The gift will also support the Alumni House Expansion Project on W&M’s main campus, which will provide additional space for events, programming, and staff. Graduate students in the School of Marine Science at VIMS earn their Ph.D. and Master’s degrees from W&M and are alumni of the university following graduation.VIMS graduate student Joey Matt studies oyster reproduction in the lab. ©K. Rebenstorf.

“A larger space is clearly needed,” says Acuff. “We need to have a proper facility that can support a much larger crowd, particularly alumni whose numbers continue to grow. Having a proper gathering place that can accommodate alumni when they return to campus will be good for William & Mary, the Alumni Association, and the university’s broader engagement efforts. We need a facility that will make alumni feel proud of visiting their alma mater.”

In recognition of his gift, the reception hall in the new wing will be named for the Acuff Family. This space will be the new entrance to the Alumni House and serve as the welcome center for guests. 

“This generous gift provides necessary funding to expand meeting spaces, upgrade existing gathering areas, and create much-needed space for large events,” says Cindy Satterwhite Jarboe '77, president of the William & Mary Alumni Association. “As a former president of the WMAA, Marshall understands the importance of our Alumni House as a gathering place and home on campus for our alumni to reconnect. This gift undoubtedly helps fulfill our goal of providing world-class alumni engagement.”

To date, $4.2 million has been raised to support the Alumni House expansion and renovation effort.