HOllins University. Courtesy of Hollins.

Here’s a round-up of business (and sometimes other) news from around Southwest and Southside. Send items for possible inclusion to news@cardinalnews.org.

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Hollins University announces largest donation ever for a women’s college 

Hollins University announced Thursday that it has received a $75 million gift from an anonymous alumna. This is the largest single gift in Hollins’ history and the largest donation ever received by a women’s college, according to a release from the school. In addition, it represents one of the largest single donations ever given to a college or university solely by a female donor, as well as one of the largest ever to a small liberal arts college.

The gift will establish the Levavi Oculos Endowed Scholarship Fund, which will exclusively fund scholarships and address undergraduate financial need for Hollins’ undergraduate students. Unlike most major donations which become active at a future date or only over a long period of time, this gift will be provided in $25 million increments to the Hollins endowment over the next three fiscal years, beginning no later than June 30, 2022.

“This gift is such a profound and powerful statement about the value of higher education for women,” said President Mary Dana Hinton in a statement. “The transformational educational opportunities created by it will have a visible and sustained impact for generations of women to come at Hollins. Most of all, this generosity will enable future students who otherwise would not be able to attend college to access that opportunity.”

Financial security and long-term stability are critically important issues for women’s colleges like Hollins, whose numbers have declined from more than 200 in the 1960s to fewer than 40 today, the school said in its release.

Hollins, founded in 1842, currently has an undergraduate student body that is 36% low-income, 34% first generation, and 30% students of color.

“The gift strongly reaffirms the importance of our mission and will help Hollins further its commitment to equity and inclusion in the coming years,” said Alexandra Trower ’86, chair of the Hollins University Board of Trustees, in a statement.

The first $25 million installment will establish the Levavi Oculos Endowed Scholarship Fund in support of scholarships for undergraduate students beginning in the fall of 2023. By the 2025-26 academic year, Hollins estimates that a minimum of 125 students – just under 20% of the current undergraduate student body – will benefit from this gift.

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Mark Heath (right), president and CEO of the Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corporation (EDC), led a tour in March 2019 of the unfinished CCAT (Commonwealth Centre for Advanced Training) building. Also pictured is Henry County Administrator Tim Hall. 

Harvest Foundation invests $7 million in economic development group

The Harvest Foundation has announced it will give $7 million over the next four and a half years to the Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corporation to support economic development in the region.

“A robust economy with diverse businesses offering living-wage jobs is at the bedrock of a thriving community,” said DeWitt House, senior program officer at The Harvest Foundation in a statement. “The EDC is our largest recruiter for jobs and industry to Martinsville-Henry County. They work to attract outside investment from national and international companies to bring jobs to the region that pay living wages. It is our hope that this long-term investment from Harvest will support the EDC in its commitment to continued stability and lasting success.” 

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, local jobs in the manufacturing workforce increased from 2013 to 2019 following 22 consecutive years of net loss, according to the foundation.

Since July 1, 2018, the EDC assisted with eight new company announcements, nine expansions of existing companies, creating 1,358 new jobs, and facilitated $379.5 million in capital investment for Martinsville-Henry County. The average weekly wage rose from $579 in 2010 to $696 in 2020. 

For every dollar The Harvest Foundation invested at the EDC since 2019, $59.96 was brought back into the community, the foundation said. The EDC also manages Martinsville Made, a workforce development initiative responding to industry needs by facilitating the recruitment of highly-skilled workers via its new aggregate jobs portal. Its internship program, which was placed on hold in 2021 due to the pandemic, will resume in 2022 with internships linked to existing career openings.

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Dr. Dan Sui. Courtesy of Virginia Tech

Virginia Tech announces leadership promotion and structural changes to further accelerate research growth

Virginia Tech has announced that chief research and innovation officer Dan Sui will been promoted to senior vice president and that responsibility for the Office of the Vice President for Strategic Alliances will shift to the Office of Research and Innovation. 

In a statement, Virginia Tech said the changes are being made “to further accelerate progress toward the university’s goal of being recognized as a top-100 global research university.”

By elevating Sui’s role and expanding the responsibility of his office, Virginia Tech is prepared to accelerate the growth of our research enterprise and engage with potential partners to find new and innovative ways to solve the challenges that are emerging in a rapidly changing world,” said Virginia Tech President Tim Sands in a statement. “Since announcing this goal five years ago, and in spite of the global pandemic, we are well-positioned to advance in the world university rankings.”

Last year, Virginia Tech’s research expenditures totaled $556 million, including a significant 15% increase in sponsored awards. Virginia Tech was recently listed as 251-300 in the 2022 Times Higher Education World University Ranking, which judges research excellence on a global scale. Among research-intensive, public land-grant universities, the university is currently ranked No. 16 with the goal to become No. 13 by 2024. Last month, Virginia Tech launched the National Security Institute, aspiring to become the nation’s preeminent academic organization at the nexus of interdisciplinary research, technology, policy, and talent development to advance national security.

Since joining Virginia Tech as vice president of research and innovation in November 2020, Sui’s office has identified Research Frontiers that will guide future developments at the intersection of humanity and technology. The office also launched a Research Development microsite within research.vt.edu to provide research faculty direct access to resources, training, funding opportunities, partners, and events and programs.

Additionally, in January 2021 the office launched its Research Development Support series to help faculty increase the scope and impact of their research, creativity, and innovation portfolio. Since then, Sui has hosted nine events focused on different facets of sponsored research, from sponsor-specific perspectives to best practices for working with partners.

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Appalachian Regional Commission announces grants for Russell County, Dabney S. Lancaster Community College

The Appalachian Regional Commission has announced two grants for projects in the 9th Congressional District, according to releases from Rep. Morgan Griffith, R-Salem, and Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, both D-Virginia.

Russell County will receive a $1.5 million grant for the construction of the Three Rivers Destination Center as part of a project to support outdoor recreation. The grant will create 16 new jobs and support $1.4 million in increased revenues for the area’s businesses and government, according to the release from Warner and Kaine. The TRDC will highlight the area’s recreational assets, help visitors plan trips, and connect tourists with regional amenities and businesses. The center will be located close to the Clinch River State Park, the Jefferson National Forest, Breaks Interstate Park and other recreational amenities. The center will also serve as headquarters for area tourism organizations, which promote the 600-plus regional tourism assets responsible for employing over 1,900 people with a payroll of $40 million throughout the seven-county region. The investment will help support increased tourism and spending, promote entrepreneurship, and help address the negative economic impacts from the downturn of the coal industry, according to a release from Warner and Kaine.

Dabney S. Lancaster Community College (soon to be Mountain Gateway Community College) will receive $1,466,029 for the Appalachian Hardwood Training Initiative, a program to improve skills to increase employability in the region’s sawmill and wood manufacturing industries. Appalachian Hardwood Manufacturers Inc. members have identified key skills needed by the industry to address current gaps.