An artist's rendering of a portion of the Bill Gatton Grand Arena at the new Equestrian Center for Emory & Henry College. Drawing courtesy of Emory & Henry College.

Here’s a roundup of education briefs from around Southwest and Southside:

Emory & Henry College receives $2 million gift for new equestrian center

The Bill Gatton Foundation has donated $2 million to Emory & Henry College to support the construction of its new equestrian center, the college announced Monday.

The center will be adjacent to the college campus, on 63 acres at exit 26 on Interstate 81. The indoor riding arena will be named the Bill Gatton Grand Arena.

“We are honored to have the support of the Bill Gatton Foundation,” John Wells, the president of Emory & Henry, said in a statement. “Mr. Gatton was a true leader who helped develop the regions of Southwest Virginia and Upper East Tennessee and improve the lives of all who live here. The college hopes to carry the torch toward continued prosperity for our students and the community.” 

The foundation, based in Bristol, Tennessee, was founded in 1985 by C.M. “Bill” Gatton, a Bristol car dealer and philanthropist. He died in April 2022.

Gatton was a longtime supporter of the former Virginia Intermont Equestrian Program, now Intermont Equestrian at Emory & Henry College, the school said. Today, more than 100 students ride, compete and study equine studies, and a new major for equine assisted therapy was introduced in 2020. The college also offers a minor in animal science.

For the past two enrollment cycles, the equestrian program has seen an “overwhelming amount of interest,” the school said, and some segments have reached capacity. The new facility will give more students the opportunity to come to participate, the school said.

Emory & Henry plans to break ground on the equestrian center next year, and construction is expected to take two to three years. The project is estimated at $20 million.

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New River Community College names new business and technologies dean

New River Community College has named Lori Mitchell as the new dean of the division of business and technologies. 

Lori Mitchell. Courtesy of New River CC.
Lori Mitchell. Courtesy of New River CC.

Mitchell began her new position after the previous dean, Debbie Bond, recently retired after 30 years at NRCC. 

Mitchell has a bachelor’s degree in history from Virginia Tech and a master of public administration degree from Virginia Commonwealth University. She is also working toward an doctoral degree in education in administrative leadership at Carson-Newman University. She has more than 20 years of experience in student services at Virginia Tech, Radford University and NRCC that includes work in career services, health professions advising, cooperative education and internship programs, student activities, leadership development, enrollment management and academic advising. She most recently served as NRCC’s student success coordinator. 

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Matt McGraw. Courtesy of Mountain Gateway CC.
Matt McGraw. Courtesy of Mountain Gateway CC.

Mountain Gateway’s McGraw named a Fulbright Scholar

Matt McGraw, associate vice president of institutional effectiveness and academic services at Mountain Gateway Community College, has received a Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program award in comparative higher education systems for the 2022-23 academic year from the U.S. Department of State and the Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board.

McGraw, who will join several other scholars on a trip to Taiwan for three weeks in March, is among more than 800 U.S. citizens who will conduct research and teach abroad for the 2022-23 academic year through the Fulbright program.

The Fulbright Program is the U.S. government’s flagship international educational exchange program. For more information about the program, visit

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University of Lynchburg gets grant for community engagement

The University of Lynchburg recently secured a three-year enrichment grant from the Bonner Foundation that will provide $40,000 annually.

“The foundation reached out to us as one of three Bonner Leader Program campuses to invite us to apply for this grant,” Cindy Ferguson, director of the Center for Community Engagement, said in a statement.

“We were targeted because of the work [we’ve done] transitioning the Bonner Program [from a two-year program] to a four-year program and the expansion of the program’s work, as well as the campuswide initiatives we’re involved in to impact the greater Lynchburg area.”

That community outreach includes volunteerism, fundraising, service learning, long- and short-term projects and community-based research. President Alison Morrison-Shetlar’s Lynchburg Tomorrow initiative and its many projects with community organizations are part of the work.

Specifically, the grant money will help fund Bonner programming, faculty workshops and two planned faculty fellows — one for the Center for Community Engagement and one for the Bonner Leader Program, in particular. It will also provide grants for students to help with service projects, as well as a senior fund that helps pay for graduate school testing, plus travel and clothing for job interviews.

Most significantly, perhaps, the money will help fund stipends for the 19 community partners who mentor and train Bonner Leaders during what’s essentially a 3½-year internship, said Tasha Gillum, the coordinator for the Bonner Leader Program since August 2019.