Lora McGlasson Robins was born June 24, 1912, in Waco, Texas, the third of five children of John and Lora McGlasson. In addition to her father’s legal practice in Waco, the McGlassons maintained a small farm, and early on their daughter learned how to milk the cow and harvest a chicken for Sunday dinner. She graduated from Waco High School and received a B.A. from Baylor University in 1932.
After a year-long teaching stint, Lora went to work in her father’s law office. It was there where she met her husband-to-be, E. Claiborne Robins, who was traveling the country introducing physicians to the pharmaceutical products of the fledgling A. H. Robins Company. Following her marriage on her 26th birthday in 1938, she accompanied Claiborne throughout the southwestern United States in his Model A Ford, as he continued his sales calls on physicians. Her pioneer spirit made her an ideal companion, as she quickly learned to set up housekeeping in every available lodging, doing laundry in the bathtub and baking pies nightly to fatten up her young 6’2″, 152 lb. husband.
Following their return to Richmond, she set to work as a loyal helpmate to build the company into the multi-national entity it was to become. From the beginning – and later as the A. H. Robins company grew to over 6,000 employees – she hosted large dinners at their Richmond for each new group of sales representatives, always preparing the meals herself. Lora indeed played a major role in creating the “family feeling” that the pharmaceutical company became widely known for. From time to time, they shut down the company to take all the employees on trips to N.Y.C., Washington D.C., Miami and Havana, Cuba. In the 1960s, with their love of Big Band music, she and Claiborne were able to bring the Glenn Miller Band and the following year Jimmy and Tommy Dorsey to Richmond to perform for the Robins Company employees.
With Claiborne working long hours to build the company, she bore most of the responsibility to raise their three children. Over the years she instilled in each of them her resourceful and adventurous nature and her can-do willingness to tackle almost any task, from re-wiring lamps to transforming under-funded non-profits. She loved to cook, but derived her greatest domestic pleasure from always having beautiful and extensive landscaping. Her appreciation of the natural world always kept her eager to learn more about her surroundings. In later life she became a discerning connoisseur of fine art, assembling impressive collections of unusual gems, shells and minerals, Old Masters paintings, fine examples of 18th century American furniture, Hester Bateman silver, and Boehm Birds, all of which she then donated to a number of Richmond area museums.
Her involvement with, and support of, local non-profits and individuals gave her great pleasure throughout her life. To the end, she always remembered to extend a hand to those who were less fortunate, with countless instances of “quiet philanthropy,” where she wasn’t seeking recognition, but was just trying to help someone in need. This personal philanthropy, both before and following Claiborne’s death in 1995, brought Mrs. Robins immense satisfaction, benefiting among many others, the American Red Cross and the Central Virginia Food Bank, the Virginia Historical Society, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, and the University of Richmond’s Lora Robins Gallery of Design and Nature. But her passion and her greatest interest were focused on Richmond’s Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. Together with its Executive Director, Frank Robinson, they envisioned and brought to life a dream that has transformed the Garden today into a destination of national renown.
Over the decades, she and Claiborne were committed to sharing their good fortune with the community. Early on, they created the Robins Foundation, a family charitable foundation to ensure the perpetuation of their philanthropic legacy. In addition, their personal lifelong support of Richmond organizations, individuals and Claiborne’s alma mater, the University of Richmond, is evidenced by the many places and programs that today carry the Robins name. In 2004, Mrs. Robins was named the Outstanding Virginian of the Year by the General Assembly. She passed away on August 22, 2010.
We wanted to share an update with you about UnBoundRVA, one of our top five finalists for the 2014 Lora M. & E. Claiborne Robins, Sr. Community Innovation Grant awarded last December. UnBoundRVA partners with other nonprofits and community organizations that operate in low-income areas of Richmond. These partners refer individuals that are interested in starting their own small business. UnBoundRVA then selects candidates to participate in a six week workshop. And at the conclusion of the workshop, we select five candidates who continue on into the business development program. During the business development program candidates receive support to get their businesses off the ground.
Recently, UnboundRVA shared with us some of the successes stories of their entrepreneurs.
Raheim owns Watson’s Windows & Exteriors is a window washing and power washing business. He shared the story of his life and opening his own business with 700 students, teachers and alumni at St. Christopher’s School.
Carolyn owns The Crafty Peacock Corporation (TCPC) is a business-to-business gift basket service that specializes in welcoming gift baskets and bags for any business’ clients. TCPC was hired to provide 25 gift baskets to Steve Case, founder of AOL, and his entourage as the Rise of the Rest tour stopped in Richmond. Read more here.
Learn more about the great work that UnBoundRVA is doing on their website. We’re thrilled to be supporting such a great organization.