Virginia Western Community College has announced that the Horace G. Fralin Charitable Trust has made a commitment of $5 million over five years to create an endowment for scholarships at the College. At least 75 percent of the funding will be used for scholarships in the areas of science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM) and healthcare.
“Like all communities, the economic future in the Roanoke Valley is dependent on the steps taken to ensure success. The approach to economic development should be changed. Our country no longer has an energy-based economy. The economy is knowledge-based, and therefore, a focus on a more skilled and educated workforce is a must,” said W. Heywood Fralin, co-trustee of the Fralin Charitable Trust. “The focus should be in areas where clusters of business activity exist. In the Roanoke Valley we have a healthcare cluster and it should have a priority focus.”
“This gift, with an emphasis on science, engineering, technology, mathematics and healthcare, should give the younger citizens of the Roanoke Valley an opportunity to become a part of the Valley’s future economic success,” Fralin said. “Hopefully, others will join this effort to enlarge Virginia Western Community College’s scholarship endowment. It’s important to the future economic growth of this Valley.”
The donation is the largest ever made to the Virginia Western Educational Foundation, nearly doubling its assets to $10.9 million. The gift single-handedly moves the foundation from the 16th – largest foundation among the 24 in the Virginia Community College System to fourth. The gift is the largest donation dedicated to scholarships in the history of the Virginia Community College System and one of the largest for community college scholarships in the country. The unprecedented increase in scholarships will help more students prepare for rapidly growing career fields and enhance the local workforce.
“Virginia Western is extremely grateful for the generosity of the Fralin Trust, Heywood and William Fralin,” said Dr. Robert H. Sandel, President of Virginia Western. “Their support will make our community stronger as we can see more students pursue STEM and healthcare fields. Those are the areas where local businesses are seeking qualified workers, and this gift allows the College to respond to the needs of the local economy.”
Like the trend nationally, the Roanoke region is experiencing growth in the middle-skill jobs that require additional education and training past high school. Virginia Western is addressing the needs of the local workforce by providing associate degree and certificate programs in all the region’s most sought-after fields. Virginia Western associate degree students have guaranteed admission transfer options to more than 32 four-year colleges and universities.
“With our new century well underway, there is nothing that is a more important differentiator for western Virginia than an educated workforce ready to accept the employment opportunities of tomorrow,” William Fralin said. “Horace always believed in quality higher education and wanted to do big things for the Valley. We think this gift fulfills both goals.”
Virginia Western maintains the second-largest enrollment, behind only Virginia Tech, of postsecondary institutions in the Roanoke region. Eighty-five percent of Virginia Western’s graduates remain in the Roanoke area and 65 percent are enrolled in programs that fill the workforce needs of the region. With a new center for science and health professions slated to open for students in 2013, the College’s impact on area healthcare professions will continue to expand.
The Fralin family’s involvement with higher education is well known across the state. The late Horace G. Fralin, co-founder of Fralin and Waldron Inc. and a graduate of Virginia Tech, endowed a charitable trust that has provided significant gifts to Virginia Tech and numerous charities throughout the Roanoke Valley. W. Heywood Fralin and William H. Fralin Jr. administer the trust and have been active in shaping higher education across the state.
W. Heywood Fralin, chairman of Medical Facilities of America, is the former rector of the University of Virginia’s Board of Visitors, served on Virginia Tech’s Boards of Visitors and was a major influence on the state’s Top Jobs legislation as chairman of the Virginia Business Higher Education Council.
William H. Fralin Jr., who served in the Virginia House of Delegates from 2004-10, is the president and chief executive officer of Medical Facilities of America and director emeriti of the Virginia Western Educational Foundation Board of Directors.
“The support of the Fralins is an endorsement of Virginia Western’s growing importance in our region,” said Dr. Angela M. Garcia Falconetti, Vice President of Institutional Advancement. “The College impacts the lives of nearly 13,000 students, paving a pathway to lifelong success through higher education. This unprecedented gift will more than double the number of scholarships awarded in perpetuity”.