Clif and Deborah Porter

Clif and Deborah Porter recently established the first-ever scholarship to support students enrolled in the new B.S. program in health services at the VCU College of Health Professions. Clif is a graduate of the college who is now senior vice president of government relations for the American Health Care Association. Photo: Tyler Trumbo

Scholarship to Create Pipeline of DEI-Focused Health Care Leaders

In 1989, recent VCU graduate Clifton Porter II was having a hard time finding a job in the long-term health care field.

He had already passed the required licensure exams while still in the health care management bachelor’s program in what is now the College of Health Professions, but still he watched classmates who didn’t yet have licenses get interviews and employment.   

It was support from a professor named Anthony DeLellis, Ed.D., that helped Porter ultimately get his first opportunity in the field.

“Tony was an ardent advocate for me getting into the program and getting me started in my professional life,” Porter said. “He kept my resume in his pocket and handed it out to people in Washington, D.C. — yes, he was that aggressive — because he thought it wasn’t fair I was overlooked.”

Dr. DeLellis’s support for Porter and other minority and underserved students helped ensure many graduates would have opportunities to put into practice the incredible education they had just received. Porter, as just one example, now serves as senior vice president of government relations for the American Health Care Association.

The B.S. in health care management curriculum was discontinued in the 1990s, but the College of Health Professions has decided to offer a similar bachelor’s degree program — a B.S. in health services — which welcomed its first cohort this fall.

Porter and his wife Deborah, a graduate of VCU’s L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs, have wasted no time showing their support. This year, they established the program’s first-ever scholarship.

The Porter Legacy Scholarship will be awarded with a preference given to students who demonstrate a commitment to the principles of diversity, equity and inclusion, and whose volunteer work and extracurricular activities are focused on the advancement of the African American Community.

“It is incredibly important to educate leaders in the long-term care field who can identify with patients they’re serving, with those patients’ stories, and with facility staff,” Porter said.

And nurturing those leaders begins with early support in college.

“There is a lot of talk about DEI in corporate America today, but at the end of the day, if you don't have qualified people coming out of colleges and universities around the country to fill positions, none of that matters,” Porter said. “We've got to make sure that we pay attention to these 18-year-olds who are trying to figure out what they want to do with their lives. We have got to pitch them and grab their hand to walk them along, just like Tony DeLellis grabbed my hand.”

That kind of support, he said, can be transformational. “When you’re that young, you don’t know what you’re capable of yet. You need someone who is going to make an investment in you to say, ‘I believe in you.’”

If you are interested in supporting the new B.S. in health services or another program at the College of Health Professions, contact T. Greg Prince, Ed.D., CFRE, senior director of development, at 804-828-7247 or