Chamber backs university idea

September 22, 2004

The Martinsville-Henry County Chamber of Commerce has endorsed The Harvest Foundation?s concept for a new college in the Martinsville area.

At a special meeting Monday, the chamber board passed a resolution supporting the concept of a college as developed by Dr. Ronald E. Carrier, former president of James Madison University.

"This concept is different and innovative.  We are confident that the economic impact that this college will have on our area and the Southside region will be extraordinary," said chamber Chairman Kevin Farrell. 

As presented by former Gov. Gerald Baliles and Carrier to chamber board members, the new college will seek to educate under-served students of Henry County-Martinsville and Southside Virginia, cultivating a knowledge-based work force attractive to today?s industries, according to a chamber release.

The concept is for the new college to serve residential, full-time students seeking a bachelor?s degree as well as students seeking degrees but who cannot commit to a strictly defined schedule.

Residential students pursuing a degree would complete their bachelor?s degrees on an accelerated timetable, likely attending classes from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. year-round, the release stated.

Students who cannot meet that schedule would attend "weekend colleges" in the area and surrounding counties, which would provide supplementary classroom instruction through the Internet, according to the release.

In January, The Harvest Foundation, which invests proceeds of the sale of Memorial Health Systems and uses funds generated to support health, education and welfare initiatives in the area, gave the state a $50 million challenge grant to help bring a college or university to the area.

"The visionary $50 million investment The Harvest Foundation is willing to make is the right investment at the right time for this area," Farrell said.  It is an investment in both our citizens and in education."

Last month, the chamber approved a strategic plan which stated that assisting in the effort to bring a university to the area was a top priority.

"By having a concept from which to work, we are a step closer toward making this initiative a reality," Farrell said.


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