Proposed college's president steps down

March 17, 2005

By Mason Adams
The Roanoke Times

Ronald Carrier, who designed the curriculum for a proposed Southside Virginia college, has retired from his position as the college's founding president, but supporters pledged to continue to work toward his vision.

Carrier, the former president of James Madison University, was hired by Martinsville's Harvest Foundation last summer to build a model for the proposed college, which would allow students to earn bachelor's degrees in just over two years. In a press release, Carrier said that work is done and he is "ready to retire again."

He will leave behind more than a curriculum. The Harvest Foundation announced that the new college, if established, would bear his name: Carrier College.

For the Harvest Foundation, however, the work is really just getting started.

"The metaphor we like is that Dr. Carrier was the architect, and now we're entering the construction phase," said Harry Cerino, the foundation's executive director.

The foundation appointed a planning committee to handle the nuts-and-bolts work on the college plans. Right now, that means working with Gov. Mark Warner, legislators and the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia.

At the beginning of this year's General Assembly session, Warner recommended $1.5 million be set aside to study the college proposal, but the Virginia House of Delegates countered with a proposal to offer only $100,000.

Eventually, a compromise was reached, with the final budget including $1 million to study the idea, including an assessment of Martinsville and Southside Virginia's need for such a college.

The college planning committee has already worked to start the process of college accreditation, and it will work with advisers to implement plans for construction. Former Virginia Gov. Gerald Baliles is serving as the committee's senior adviser.

In addition to setting up the committee, the Harvest Foundation also extended the deadline on its $50 million challenge grant from January 2006 to July 2007. That money was set aside in January 2004, payable on the condition that the state establish a baccalaureate institution of higher learning in Martinsville or Henry County within two years.

The deadline extension came after the foundation realized "it's going to take some more planning to get this thing up and running," Cerino said.

One of the Harvest Foundation's most immediate challenges is finding a successor to Carrier.

"We're looking for someone who's innovative and creative, both a leader and a manager, who has expertise in higher education and institutions in government," Cerino said.

The foundation also would like the new president to live in or near Martinsville, according to Cerino and Carrier.


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