Virginia Western Educational Foundation honors local agriculture leader with 2021 Distinguished Alumni Award

The Virginia Western Community College Educational Foundation announced that Mary Catherine (Kate) Lawrence has received the 2021 Distinguished Alumni Award. Lawrence is Botetourt County’s Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension Agent for the Virginia Cooperative Extension. She took classes at Virginia Western between 2005 and 2008.

The Distinguished Alumni Award was established in 2006 by the Virginia Western Alumni Association and recognizes Virginia Western Community College alumni and former students who have attained extraordinary distinction in their professional field or life. The award is intended to showcase the diversity of Virginia Western graduates and their range of influence on our region. This year’s award recognizes Lawrence’s commitment to the area’s agricultural community as well as her impactful role in developing and supporting Virginia Western’s newly-established Associate Degree in Agriculture program.

“I value my time spent at Virginia Western and often share with youth and community members just what a valuable resource the school is,” Lawrence said. “If you dig in and make the most of what it offers, it can help students continue their education and get where they want to be.”

Lawrence initially attended Virginia Western to complete prerequisites required for Virginia Tech’s Bachelor of Animal Science degree, which she received in 2008. She continued to take online and accelerated classes through Virginia Western to complete that degree, and later went on to earn a Master’s in Integrated Resource Management from Colorado State University.

Lawrence joined the Cooperative Extension in 2012. About that same time, she worked closely with Virginia Western’s STEM leaders to develop the curriculum for the new agriculture studies program, which started in 2019. Lawrence has been a guest lab instructor for animal science classes, and frequently hosts students on Botetourt farms for hands-on learning experiences. Four students of this inaugural class will graduate this month.

“Without Kate, connecting information learned in the classroom would be hard to put into practice in a hands-on setting,” said Heather Lindberg, Assistant Professor of Virginia Western’s STEM program. “Kate goes above and beyond by happily sharing her resources, time, and expertise with all of those involved in our agriculture program.”

In addition to her involvement with Virginia Western, Lawrence is very active in the Botetourt community, volunteering with 4-H Clubs and the Roanoke-Hollins Stockyard, and advising on the Regional Cattlemen’s Association. She is credited with rejuvenating the Botetourt County Fair after a 50-year hiatus. Most recently, Lawrence has been recognized for working with the Department of Health to organize the COVID-19 vaccination effort for the local farming community, facilitating awareness and ensuring farmers were able to sign up, even those without access to technology.

“We all certainly should be proud of any alumnus who strives for excellence in our community. Kate is a model for each of us. She is caring and intelligent, and she gives to her community each and every day. In true Virginia Western style, Kate Lawrence makes a difference.” said Amy White, Dean of Virginia Western’s STEM program.

Prior Distinguished Alumni honorees: 

2020 – Tony Pearman (’10)

2019 – Deborah L. Petrine (’76)

2018 – Elizabeth Testerman (’06)

2017 – Dr. Carol Swain (’78)

2016 – Dr. Mary Loritsch (’74) and Chief Michael Crawley

2015 – Debbie Yancey (’97)

2014 – Chief Craig S. Harris (’00) and J. David Wine (’73)

2013 – Cheryl Cunningham (’86)

2012 – Anne Hogan (’76)

2011 – Carolyn Webster (’81)

2010 – Russell H. Ellis (’80)

2009 – Shirl D. Lamanca (’75) and Dennis R. Cronk (’72)

2008 – Donna L. Mitchell (’81)

2007 – Dr. Kent A. Murphy and Charlotte C. Tyson (’84)

2006 – John B. Williamson III (’75)

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