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Van Landingham Receives Burke Award

Local Red Cross honors the retired legislator for her years of service.

To honor her years of service, the Alexandria chapter of the American Red Cross presented former Del. Marian Van Landingham with the Esther Dashiell Taylor Burke Award on March 12. The award was named for the founder of the Alexandria chapter, and Van Landingham’s award represents the 26th time the award has been presented to honor philanthropic and humanitarian service in the city.

“Through her efforts and influence, she has affected more lives than any other previous winner,” said Virginia Voght, chairwoman of the local chapter, who presented the award. “Her work has been felt across a broad and diverse range of people.”

As a member of the influential House Appropriations Committee, Del. Van Landingham was instrumental in bringing money into the city’s nonprofit community. She used her position as chairwoman of two Appropriations subcommittees to fund a host of humanitarian causes, such as counseling victims of rape and helping students who speak English as a second language. As a local activist, she helped to create the Torpedo Factory and the Volunteer Bureau. City Councilman Paul Smedberg said that Van Landingham’s legacy would be her trailblazing nature.

“By the time she retired, she was the highest ranking woman in the House of Delegates,” Smedberg said. “She was very influential in Richmond.”

Vice Mayor Del Pepper said that Van Landingham’s legacy in Richmond was her staunch support of the city’s legislative package.

“She was always there for us, and she’s the kind of person that you want representing you,” Pepper said. “She was a thoughtful and dependable legislator — someone who was on top of things and was very knowledgeable.”

Former City Manager Vola Lawson praised Van Landingham’s ability to use her influence in Richmond to find funding for important causes. She read a list of Van Landingham’s accomplishments that included a host of causes: shelters for delinquent youths, telecommunication devices for the deaf, rape-crisis centers, consumer service protection and community service boards.

“If I told you the list of all the other groups that have honored Marian, we’d be here until dinnertime,” Lawson said.

Accepting the award, Van Landingham was her typically self-assured self — deflecting the spotlight to those who had worked alongside her over the years.

“It’s been fun,” she said, adding that all of her efforts have been aided by a team of people who are committed to the city and its betterment. “There’s a wonderful little core of people who really care about this place.”

A native of Albany, Ga., Van Landingham moved to Alexandria in 1972. She founded the Torpedo Factory Art Center in 1974, and was first elected to the Virginia House of Delegates in 1981. She decided not to run for re-election last year while she was fighting colon cancer, and she learned in January that she is now cancer free.

“With all of your support, I am doing quite well now,” she said. “Thank you.”