Meet our donors

Joe & Suzanne Seipel

Joe & Suzanne Seipel

Joe Seipel began as an instructor in the Virginia Commonwealth University sculpture department in 1974, on a one-year contract. He went on to spend more than 40 years at the VCU School of the Arts in roles including professor, sculpture department chair and VCUarts dean from 2011 until he retired from VCU in 2016. During his tenure as dean, the school rose to and maintained its position as the top public arts and design school in the country in the U.S. News & World Report’s Best Graduate Schools rankings.

“I’d love to take credit for that, but credit goes to the fantastic faculty and students that we have,” Seipel says. “Word got out and it really became an important place for students because they knew the quality of the program.”

Seipel was an early advocate of the Institute for Contemporary Art at VCU. Two years after retiring as dean, he returned to VCU as the interim director of the ICA in 2018. He filled this role for a year.

Seipel served as a vice president at the Savannah College of Art and Design from 2009-11 and interim dean of the School of Art and Design at the Fashion Institute of Technology in 2017. He is also a professional artist, appearing in exhibitions almost every year since 1972. Most recently in 2022, he had a solo exhibition entitled “Altered Visions” at the Reynolds Gallery and simultaneously exhibited a large-scale muti-media studio installation entitled “Classical Opera.”

Seipel and his wife, Suzanne, have been loyal donors to VCU for the past 36 years and proud members of the Pollak Society since 2010. With planned giving, the couple saw an opportunity to make a gift that could continue to grow and support the arts at VCU.

“I wanted to be able to do something that would allow the money to increase its dividend over the years and become something substantial,” Joseph Seipel says. “I fully expect that gift to be larger by the time I get to the other side of the grass.”

By making a bequest to VCU, the Seipels have made a gift that will support arts students and the sculpture department for years to come. They hope the gift will enable the exceptional students at VCUarts to expand their education in whatever way they need to, without financial barriers.

“I would love to see the students come out of these programs with an incredible amount of fearlessness when it comes to looking at creative solutions to their problems,” Seipel says. “They need the freedom to present ideas, solutions, suggestions and focus that can’t always be found in a straightforward academic program.”

Seipel has believed in the importance of a flexible learning experience in the arts throughout his career. He has an enduring reverence for the sculpture department, which he has always felt is more than faculty teaching students, but a true community of artists, regardless of age and status He enjoyed engaging with students, who would often hang out in his office while they discussed art - other artists’ work, ideas, the latest developments - caught up on current projects or just sipped coffee and chatted.

“When you were a student in the sculpture department, you really had a home,” Seipel says. “It was a marvelous kind of unit to be involved in, and the students from it have had such success.”

The Seipels hope that their planned gift can give future students the financial boost that they need to pursue creative success that is not defined by a job but by personal growth and accomplishment. They hope to encourage students who become extraordinary creative forces in whatever field they choose.

“I hope that this gift provides some opportunities for students to continue in an area that focuses on them being able to have a profession,” he says. “But also I hope it supports them in gaining knowledge for the sake of knowledge.”

Virginia Commonwealth University* Donor Joe & Suzanne Seipel