East River Hall, a residential facility on the campus of Bluefield College, is appropriately named as the building sits at the foothills of the grand East River Mountain range, and students who live in the dorm need just look out their window to view the beautiful East River landscape.
But, East River Hall bears other names, as well — the names of alumni and friends — and even more appropriately so as they have generously gifted some $60,000 to help support BC’s Residential Living and Learning Improvement Campaign.
Among the names being placed inside the residence hall are C. Ray Wingrove, Kathleen Stowers, and the Harold Keene Coal Company. Markers bearing their names are being placed at entryways to dorm rooms so that the students living in East River Hall can know who helped make their living and learning experience possible at Bluefield College.
“Sharing our vision of Bluefield College with alumni, friends and businesses is a passion of mine,” said BC’s Annette Tabor, associate vice president for advancement. “So, when sharing opportunities to be a part of our living and learning community, our alumni, friends, and businesses responded. They, too, want to be part of the future of Bluefield. Each would share their own personal story of how they are connected to BC and realized the importance of enhancing our resources to accomplish our mission and vision.”
East River Hall opened in the fall of 2009 and is just one of many projects completed by the college as part of its Residential Living and Learning Improvement Campaign. Designed to maximize the value of the on-campus living experience for students by creating more modern facilities complete with additional educational and recreational space, the Residential Living and Learning Improvement Campaign began on the BC campus in 2006 with the addition of new room furniture and new windows, along with renovated bathrooms, student lounges and computer labs in BC’s existing residence halls.
“Residence halls are a vital component to the overall living and learning experience,” said BC President David Olive, “and we are making major quality-of-life improvements and additions to our residential living program.”
Supporting that initiative, Wingrove and his wife, Jane, said they, too, realize the importance student housing plays in attracting and retaining students, and that Bluefield students deserve the best that can be afforded.
“I gave because the college gave a lot to me,” said Wingrove about his gift for naming rights inside East River Hall. “The college gave me a strong background to compete academically when I went on to the University of Richmond (’59) and later UNC-Chapel Hill (M.A. ’62, Ph.D. ’64). Bluefield gave me confidence and sparked an interest in teaching, which turned into a career in university teaching and research.”
Wingrove, who now lives in Richmond, Virginia, began his teaching career as an associate professor of sociology at the University of Georgia from 1964 to 1971, before becoming a professor and chair of the Department of Sociology at the University of Richmond from 1971 to 2002. Today, he serves as a professor emeritus at the University of Richmond, where he also earned the Distinguished Educator Award in 1981 and 1990.
Stowers, a longtime BC friend from Bluefield, Virginia, said she wanted to support BC’s Living and Learning Improvement Campaign because of her commitment to education, particularly Christian education for students from southwest Virginia.
“I think it’s important to give back to your community,” said Stowers. “I believe in education, and this is one way I can help.”
Stowers, who also established the Glenn M. Stowers Memorial Scholarship for Bluefield College students in 2005 in memory of her late husband, added that her hope is that by giving to the BC Fund for Scholarships, the Stowers Scholarship Fund, and the Living and Learning Improvement Campaign she might make it possible for students to attend Bluefield College, who may not otherwise have the means to do so.
“Glenn always loved young people,” said Stowers. “He didn’t attend Bluefield College, but he appreciated education. I want people to remember him. I just feel like his name should be some place where people can remember him and remember the good he did for those he came into contact with.”
East River Hall also will permanently bear the name of the Harold Keene Coal Company, thanks to Keene’s generosity to BC. The southwest Virginia coal operator has been a supporter of Bluefield College since 2001 with gifts totaling nearly $43,000 over that span to not only to the Living and Learning Improvement Campaign, but also to the BC Fund and other campus projects.
“When we first started selling stoker coal Bluefield College was one of our first customers, at a time when we really needed the business,” said Lynn Keene, founder of the Keene Coal Company. “Because they chose to support us at such a pivotal time in the formation of our company, we are happy to show them how much we appreciate their business.”
Other donors, who wish to remain anonymous, have contributed to the Living and Learning Improvement Campaign, which not only supports projects like East River Hall, but also the BC Fund.
Additional naming rights for rooms, lounges or other parts of the contemporary living-learning facility are still available for gifts starting at $10,000. For more information about leaving a permanent mark on East River Hall and Bluefield College students, please contact the BC Advancement Office by email at [email protected] or by phone at 276-326-4556.