Oral History Project of the VWAA

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Angelica Light

Angelica Didier Light received her undergraduate degree from Smith College in 1971 and her law degree from Washington & Lee in 1975, putting her in the first class at the law school to accept women. She was one of six women in a class of 72. She was admitted to the bar the same year. Although she grew up in Ohio, her family legacy is from the south. Light is a descendant of the estimable William Preston, an 18th century Scots-Irish immigrant, who initially settled in Botetourt County, where he built Greenfield, before eventually settling in Blacksburg, where he built Smithfield, now an historic property open to the public.

Light was the first woman attorney to practice in the law department of what was then called Norfolk & Western Railroad in Roanoke, where she practiced for 15 years. While there, in the 1980’s, she worked with local environmentalists to convert some rights-of-way under the federal government Rails to Trails program repurposing abandoned rail lines and is responsible for the establishment of the well known Virginia Creeper Trail, which runs from Abingdon to Damascus through the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area.

Light then became the first woman general counsel and vice president at Shenandoah Life Insurance before moving from Roanoke to Norfolk. In Norfolk, she became CEO of The Norfolk Foundation, now the Hampton Roads Community Foundation, doubling the value of the foundation from $100 million to $200 million during her tenure. In executing the mission of The Norfolk Foundation, Light led a local, then statewide, effort to make quality early childhood education a priority of the Virginia legislature; this has grown into the Virginia Kindergarten Readiness Program (VKRP), a state mandated assessment of all kindergartners to give schools, teachers and families a complete picture of each child’s school readiness. She has truly fulfilled her legacy commitment to leaving this state a better place than she found it.

Additional Details

Interview Date: May 10, 2023

Video Transcript