Vinnie Lanier started classes at Tidewater Community College in 1976. During her 40-plus years here, the Norfolk resident earned more than 128 credits, taking classes that caught her fancy and kept her mind sharp.
Lanier, 85, lost her life on Feb. 17, after being struck by a hit-and-run driver in Norfolk.
“Ms. Vinnie was a woman of strength, determination and courage. She was known as ‘Ma Vinnie’ by students and those who knew her from the community,” said Angela Scott, admissions assistant. “Ms. Vinnie would often attend class and then go home and bring high school seniors back here to enroll. Sometimes this happened several times a day.”
Even after a recent hospitalization, Lanier returned to campus for spring semester, taking English and math classes.
“I first met Ms. Vinnie when I was her academic advisor,” said Kia Hardy, interim dean of student services. “Once you started talking with her, time would fly by. She lived each day to the fullest and was always sharing her wisdom. We knew her smile. Her voice. She was our grandma on campus. We were here to help her, but she was helping us, too.”
Lanier was a long-time parishioner of the Basilica of St. Mary in Norfolk. A celebration of her life will be held there on Feb. 22.
“Vinnie was an excellent example of Catholicism at its best. She lived her faith. She exuded it just by her presence,” said Oretha Pretlow, pastoral associate at St. Mary’s. “Vinnie was always willing to help people and was interested in building people up and enhancing their lives. Her life was the best version of who she was.”
Added TCC administrator Latoya Smith, “Ms. Vinnie always stressed the importance of education. She was an example to the younger generation, showing them that if she could go to school, they could do the same thing. She believed that the best way to reach people was to be an example.”
Lanier’s legacy will live on in the students and TCC alumni who got their start in college because of her encouragement.
“We will miss her bubbly personality and her stories,” said Stacey Newton, enrollment services assistant. “She was one of a kind — a true inspiration.”