Robins Family History

Our founders, Lora M. and E. Claiborne Robins, were compassionate, empathetic and accessible community leaders. Their legacy has inspired generations of thoughtful philanthropists and visionaries, and it is a legacy we strive to nurture and deepen.

As we look to the future, we continue to engage 4th generation Robins’ descendants to join the legacy of philanthropy and service to the community by supporting the Richmond community and embracing the promise of a bright future for all.

[00:00:04] I have always believed that education is the greatest investment that any individual or corporation or foundation could possibly make, it is something that has an impact not only on the present generation, but on many, many generations to come.

[00:00:29] I can’t think of any other type of giving with so significant an impact on society.

[00:00:38] The Robin’s legacy started with the A.H. Robins’ Apothecary, founded by Albert Hartley Robins in eighteen sixty-six.

[00:00:48] That became the A.H. Robins Company under Claiborne Robins’ leadership after his death in nineteen twelve.

[00:00:56] Martha Taylor Robins took over the company for the next twenty-four years.

[00:01:04] Martha taught her son, E. Claiborne Robins, not only about the business, but also about giving back to the community.

[00:01:14] He eventually took the helm in nineteen thirty-six.

[00:01:18] He came to the university not as a wealthy person or one from a wealthy family. He came from a working family at the time his mother ran the business and he worked in it. He brought his lunch. He was on a scholarship working in the library.

[00:01:35] He came to the campus in the morning, went through his classes and immediately left, as I understand it, to go back to the pharmacy and to work, then be virtually full time at that. So, his college life was very focused on his studies and on work.

[00:01:52] My father cared for people. He was an only child, and he grew up during the Depression. During that time, he learned that people were important, that as you go through life, you must have people with you at all times. He was dedicated to all of his employees and that every policy that we put in was always in consideration of what was best for the employees.

[00:02:15] You read the story of his life and what he does is finds what need do people have that could be met most efficiently, most cheaply. So, he’s not making the most expensive drugs that he can. He’s thinking, how do you get rid of a cough? How do you get rid of chapped lips?

[00:02:34] Commercial Clip: Dr. J. has changed his nickname to Dr. Chapstick. ‘Chapstick lip balm is serious medicine. It helps heal chapped lips and helps keep them from shopping in the first place.’

[00:02:47] Commercial Clip: Chapstick has emollients to protect against the wind and cold even as a sunscreen. Hey buddy. Have a chapstick.’

[00:03:04] E. Claiborne Robins’ love for his alma mater, led him to joining the University of Richmond’s board of trustees in nineteen fifty-one. I would dare say that the education that he received from the University Richmond was a springboard to his success, and he never, ever lost his desire to help this university because of that.

[00:03:28] During his time there, the university was going through tough times financially.

[00:03:34] He saw the need and decided to give back to the university in a huge way. E. Claiborne Robins gave a whopping fifty million dollars to the University of Richmond. At the time, it was the largest single donation ever to an American university.

[00:03:53] Now, when we try to think of what the Robins’ gift has done for the University of Richmond, it basically created the modern University of Richmond and by which, I mean one of the few places in the United States where we don’t ask how much money you have when we admit you. And we promised to meet one hundred percent of your needs. Only one percent of the schools in the United States are able to do that. And we’re able to do that because of the remarkable and undesignated gift that the Robins’ family has given us over the years. And that pays off every single day. And all the thousands of students who’ve come through here whose lives have been changed, as Mr. Robins was, by the opportunity of having an education at the University of Richmond.

[00:04:32] He’d never wanted anyone else to know about it. He seemed to think that that was a part of what he was supposed to do and he didn’t want anyone to talk, he didn’t want any publicity. We’re the only school in the country that grants every student a paid summer fellowship for any summer in their college education where they can use anywhere they want in the world. Now, Mr. Robins charged us when he gave us the gift to create one of the best small universities in the country.

[00:05:01] And I think all the rankings and the experience of people here suggests that his visions have come true.

[00:05:06] In fact, when I see that statue on campus, which I see often of Claiborne, I see Lora standing there, either moving his collar around or just being his partner. They were two peas in a pod, but because they were very different peas, and each had their own characteristics and personalities and results of the relationship, the relationship was greater than the sum of the parts.

[00:05:34] Ann Carol has asked that we introduce ourselves and our relationship to Lora Robins as we speak today.

[00:05:41] My name is Frank Robinson, and I think it’s fair to say I was her partner in crime. She has loved Louis Ginter Botanical Garden since its inception in nineteen eighty-four. She was a member of its first board of directors and in the eighties she personally scrubbed sinks and toilets in a dilapidated Bloomingdale house to make it presentable to the public.

[00:06:06] And she dreamed big about its future. We’re about every color in the rainbow, she said. We are about every flower in the garden. I want this building to be bright and beautiful.

[00:06:18] And if you look about you today as you enjoy this facility, you will see that she set a standard that is influenced every aesthetic decision that we have made since that time.

[00:06:30] We know the high-profile public projects she has undertaken in this community.

[00:06:35] In her obituary, her family mentioned her quiet philanthropy, and that is what will never be measured, the way she changed lives, one by one. The families who were clothed when they were cold, the children who were fed when they were hungry, the students who were provided fine education when they had no resources, the little girls who received their first recital dresses for their harp concerts. These gifts were as numerous as her flowers in her beloved garden, Clearview. They brought to her both joy and a sense of peace that some of the inequities in the world had been solved that day.

[00:07:22] And since that time, the Robins’ Foundation has had an opportunity to change the lives and make lives better for children and families because of the legacy established by Mr. and Mrs. Robins. So, each and every day we ask, how can we build on that legacy? How can we create an opportunity for all children and families to thrive, in a way that’s passionate, in a way that’s visionary in the way that Mr. Robins was in his philanthropy and his leadership and his commitment to the community. So, we’re committed to building on the legacy and honoring the legacy of Mr. Robins by helping to make a difference in the lives of children each and every day. In education and creating healthier, better communities and making these opportunities accessible to all children and families, regardless of background, regardless of zip code, regardless of race or gender. That’s our commitment. And we’re able to do that by building on the legacy established by Mr. and Mrs. Robins.

[00:08:24] Granddaddy would say to me would say to me shrouds don’t have pockets, hearses don’t have luggage racks. You get so more back, giving while you are living.

[00:08:39] I was raised with the idea that this is what we do at and of course, it’s a decision. It is. It’s not a requirement.

[00:08:52] When I had the opportunity to join the Robins Foundation board, I felt like it was it was my venue, my way, my ability to try to kind of follow in his footsteps and give back to the community. Growing up in the shadow of Lora and Claiborne Robins, I definitely felt like I needed to earn the right to my name. And I feel like being on the Robins foundation board has been one way for me to be able to do that, in some little small way.

[00:09:23] When you think philanthropy, you think E. Claiborne and Lora Robins, they believed in giving back empowering and educating the community.

[00:09:38] So it comes as no surprise the Robins Foundation, established in nineteen fifty-seven, upholds the same values and mission.

[00:09:48] The foundation has invested millions of dollars to support Richmond schools, nonprofits and service organizations.

[00:09:58] Now it’s your turn. Help us carry on this amazing legacy. Richmond needs you and the world needs you.

Our Funding Drivers
Little girls playing

Partnering with nonprofits, peers, and community leaders to achieve measurable results.

young boy w/ circuit boards

Leveraging innovative programs to drive policy and action to benefit the entire region.

Virginia Union graduation

Welcoming and empowering all voices to create an environment of fairness and opportunity for everyone to thrive.