Ray Gaskins. Courtesy of Virginia Tech.
Ray Gaskins. Courtesy of Virginia Tech.

Here’s a roundup of news briefs from around Southwest and Southside. Send yours for possible inclusion to news@cardinalnews.org.

* * *

New fellowship funded at Fralin Biomedical Research Institute

Virginia Tech alumnus Ray Gaskins has funded a new fellowship for graduate students at the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC: the Ray A. Gaskins Exercise Health Science Graduate Fellowship. 

Gaskins, a longtime Virginia Tech benefactor, now supports two annual $5,000 fellowships for students on Virginia Tech’s Health Sciences and Technology campus in Roanoke who are conducting doctoral research mentored by the institute’s primary faculty. The new fellowship recognizes Gaskins’ devotion to exercise, but students need not be studying exercise science to be eligible, according to a news release announcing the fellowship.

“I’m keenly interested in the connection between exercise and health,” Gaskins said in a statement. He earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and a doctorate in statistics at Virginia Tech and taught math and computer science at Hampden-Sydney College. Now 81, the Virginia Tech alumnus is still in the gym seven days a week, walking 6 miles on the treadmill or running barefoot outside when it’s warm and the grass is soft. He worked up to 1,500 push-ups a day at one point.

“Regular exercise and diet have allowed me to get back to my high school wrestling weight,” he said. He weighed in at about 165 pounds at Chesapeake’s Great Bridge High School in the 1950s.

Gaskins was an avid runner who completed just about every major marathon on the calendar, most of them in three hours. His fastest was the New York City Marathon, which he ran in two hours and 54 minutes. 

While Gaskins and his sisters grew up knowing they would attend college debt-free, he recognized that others would not be so fortunate. He has funded scholarships at multiple colleges, including Virginia Tech, where he is a member of the Ut Prosim Society of university benefactors. 

“I’ve reached the philanthropic stage of my life,” he said. “I want that word, ‘philanthropy,’ to be on my tombstone.”

* * *

Water may rise suddenly below Claytor and Leesville dams

Appalachian Power warned boaters, kayakers, tubers and other recreational users downstream of Claytor and Leesville dams that water levels on the New and Roanoke rivers could rise rapidly starting at 7 a.m. Wednesday and continue to fluctuate through late Thursday evening.

The National Weather Service is calling for high temperatures this week and PJM, the independent regional transmission organization that manages the electric grid in 13 states, has notified Appalachian Power it may need to increase power generation at its hydroelectric plants to maintain the reliability of the regional electric grid if called upon to do so.

Below Claytor Dam, water levels could increase up to 2 feet in a matter of minutes. Water levels below Leesville Dam could increase as much as 8 feet over a seven-hour period. Those considering recreating on the rivers should monitor AEP’s website for additional information and follow us on Smith Mountain or Claytor Facebook pages for updates.

* * *

Niagara canoe portage on Roanoke River closed through August

The Niagara canoe portage on the Roanoke River will be closed through August to allow for repairs at the Niagara Dam, Appalachian Power has announced.

The repairs require closing the canoe portage to install a new boat barrier for safe operations.  Additionally, repairs to the canoe take-out will be made to improve access for recreational users.

Signs indicating the canoe portage closure will be posted around Niagara Dam. Updates will be posted on the company’s Smith Mountain website and on the Smith Mountain Facebook page. 

* * *

Bedford chamber accepting nominations for business awards

The Bedford Area Chamber of Commerce is now accepting nominations for its annual Excellence in Business Awards.

These awards honor Bedford-area businesses and organizations for their innovation, celebrate their vision and publicly appreciate their contributions to the quality of life in the community.

Awards will be presented at the chamber’s annual gala on Sept. 14.

A full list of categories and a nomination form are available online. Nominations are due by midnight July 16. Self-nominations are welcome, and a company can be nominated for more than one award category.

For more information, call the Bedford Chamber at 540-586-9401 or email Foster Garrett at marketing@baccva.org.