April 22, 2005
By DOUGLAS HAIRSTON
Bulletin Staff Writer
The New College Planning Commission got up and running Thursday, electing officers at its first meeting. Robert H. "Rob" Spilman Jr., president and chief executive officer of Bassett Furniture Industries, was elected board chairman; Elizabeth Haskell of Martinsville, former state Secretary of Natural Resources and Martinsville City Council member, was elected vice chairman; and Kimble Reynolds, a local attorney who is Martinsville's vice mayor, was elected secretary.
The commission was created to work to develop the proposed New College of Virginia in Martinsville-Henry County when Dr. Ronald Carrier, architect of the plan, stepped down as director of the college last month.
Spilman said the morning meeting was an organizational and informational session that gave the nine commission members a chance to meet one another. It was closed to the public. The members heard presentations from the commission's senior adviser and
former state governor, Gerald Baliles, and others on the effort to establish a state college in the area - its history, past and future challenges - and where the commission needs to press forward, said Spilman.
"We are enthusiastic about the (college) and what this could mean for the long-term welfare for all the citizens of Southside," Spilman said. One of the first objectives of the commission is to help with the selection and hiring of a full-time director, Spilman said. No timetable has been set for that, but Spilman said he expects the commission to start reviewing candidates soon.
The panel is committed to NCV and the accelerated curriculum developed by Carrier, Spilman said. Carrier devised a 28-month bachelor's degree program that also includes an Internet presence and weekend college for non-traditional students. "We think the accelerated model is a compelling one and right for the circumstances we have here," Spilman said. Spilman said he was excited about the backgrounds and capabilities of commission members, calling them "a lot of horsepower" being harnessed to the effort.
The members represent education, business and government. In addition to the officers, members are Douglas Payne, executive vice president of Stanley Furniture; Donald Hodges, president of West Window Corp.; Marshall Stowe, executive director of the Martinsville Uptown Revitalization Association; Dr. Ronald G. Kander, head of the Department of Integrated Science and Technology at James Madison University; Minnis E. Ridenour, retired executive vice president and chief operating officer of Virginia Tech; and Colette Sheehy, vice president for management and budget for the University of Virginia.
The establishment of the New College Planning Commission continues the effort of The Harvest Foundation, which issued a $50 million challenge grant to open a baccalaureate degree-granting college in Martinsville-Henry County by January 2006. That date has been pushed back to July 2007.
The commission's next meeting is scheduled for June 14.
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