Rendering of the proposed equestrian center at Emory & Henry College. Courtesy of Emory & Henry.

Here’s a round-up of news briefs from around Southwest and Southside. Send yours for possible inclusion to

* * *

Emory & Henry announces plans for two new facilities

Emory & Henry College officials have announced a plan to build a new equestrian center and a new multi-sport complex for track and field, soccer and lacrosse. The two facilities will be built on property the college owns adjacent to Exit 26 off Interstate 81.

“This expansion will not only allow us to build more first-class facilities that complement our renowned academic reputation, it will enable us to expand the Emory & Henry brand along the heavily travelled I-81 corridor where thousands of drivers and potential students pass by daily,” said President John Wells in a statement.

“With our record enrollment and new student housing underway, transitioning to NCAA Division II and joining the South Atlantic Conference, adding new schools of business and nursing, and expanding programs at our Health Sciences campus in Marion, there is a clear sense of momentum at Emory & Henry,” said Wells.

The new equestrian center on the south side of I-81 will replace the aging facility at Exit 10 that Emory & Henry took over when Virginia Intermont College closed in 2014. “The program has won 21 national championships under the combined E&H and VI banners and is a leader among its college competitors.  A new riding and competition center will allow the successful program to continue to attract top riders, expand to meet growing demand for equine studies majors, and compete on the national stage into the future,” Wells said in the statement.

The new facility will feature an indoor competition riding arena with spectator seating, outdoor riding arena, multiple paddocks, high-tech classroom space and tack rooms, ample and modern stalls for college horses and boarding for student horses. The facility design is by specialty equestrian architect Joseph Martinolich from Lexington, Kentucky. Plans are being discussed to incorporate the Exit 10 facility for additional equestrian programming.

The multi-sport athletic complex would serve as the new home for Emory & Henry’s track and field program as well as provide competition and practice space for the soccer and rugby teams, and possibly lacrosse in the future. Artificial turf field, lighting, spectator seating, locker rooms, restrooms, and concessions would also be included in the project slated for the north side of Exit 26 that is designed by athletic experts at VMDO Architects from Charlottesville. 

It is anticipated that both facilities will host local, regional and national tournaments throughout the year, to attract more people to the campus and the region. 

College leaders will begin receiving and exploring a variety of funding sources and opportunities to fuel the new developments.

These two new projects follow on the heels of an announcement by the college last month to build new upper class apartments to accommodate 144 students off College Drive. Construction of the apartments will start later this spring with students expected to take occupancy in the spring 2023 semester.

* * *

The study locations. Courtesy of Virginia Passenger Rail Authority

Virtual meetings scheduled for feasibility study for New River Valley rail station

The New River Valley Passenger Rail Station Feasibility Study virtual public meetings are scheduled. There are two dates/times available for the public to participate:

Additional meeting details will be available in the upcoming weeks.

Want to learn more about the project? Click here to be directed to the project website.

* * *

Kevin Pitts. Courtesy of Virginia Tech.

Kevin Pitts named dean of the College of Science at Virginia Tech

Kevin Pitts, chief research officer at Fermilab National Accelerator Laboratory and a professor of physics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, has been named the next dean of the Virginia Tech College of Science, according to a release from Virginia Tech.

Pitts will officially step into his new role June 13, taking over from Ron Fricker, who has served as interim dean since January 2021. Pitts will also be a professor in the College of Science Department of Physics.

In 2021, Pitts became chief research officer at Fermilab, a U.S. Department of Energy facility, where he is charged with oversight of the laboratory’s science program, including the multi-billion-dollar international Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment. Even before his appointment last year, Pitts worked extensively on experiments at Fermilab, including the 1995 discovery of the “top quark,” a central finding in particle physics.

Before joining Fermilab as chief research officer, Pitts was vice provost for Undergraduate Education at University of Illinois, where his responsibilities included undergraduate admissions, financial aid, student success, and online education. Prior to that, he was associate dean for undergraduate programs in the university’s College of Engineering.

Fricker, who has served the college as interim Dean during the search, will now transition into a new role, vice provost for faculty affairs, a position to which he was named in December.

* * *