University History

E. Claiborne Robins


E. Claiborne Robins was born in Richmond, Virginia, to Claiborne (Richmond College, 1894) and Martha Taylor Robins. He earned his B.A. degree in English at the University of Richmond in 1931 and his B.S. degree from the School of Pharmacy at the Medical College of Virginia in 1933.

He then joined his mother and two other employees in the family business, which was begun in 1866 by his grandfather, A.H. Robins, as a small apothecary and manufacturing chemist's shop. By 1970 E. Claiborne Robins was Chairman of the Board of the A.H. Robins Company, a multinational corporation engaged primarily in the manufacture and marketing of pharmaceuticals and consumer products. He retired in 1990, following the sale of A.H. Robins Company to American Home Products Company.

In 1969, Robins donated $50 million to the University of Richmond. At the time, it was the largest cash gift ever presented to an American university, and it came at a critical juncture. Robins challenged Richmond “to become the finest small private university in the nation.”

Over his lifetime, Robins and his family gave Richmond about $175 million in total.

Robins received the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws from the University of Richmond in 1960 and the University's first Paragon Medal, its highest award, in 1986.