by Joan Tupponce
A facility being built at the University of Virginia’s College at Wise is expected to affect the health of Southwest Virginia residents as well as students.
The Winston Ely Health and Wellness Center is scheduled for completion in December 2013. Utility construction on the project is under way.
The $8.3 million center was made possible by a gift from the Richard and Leslie Gilliam Foundation, the largest single donation in the school’s history. A native of Wise, Richard Gilliam is a 1974 graduate of U.Va.-Wise, known until 1999 as Clinch Valley College.
Gilliam was founder and chief executive officer of Cumberland Resources, a coal company purchased by Richmond-based Massey Energy in 2010. (Massey merged with Bristol-based Alpha Natural Resources last year.) Gilliam’s mother, Betty, was one of the school’s original faculty members. His wife, Leslie, grew up in Lee County.
The Gilliams “are big supporters of the college,” says Sim Ewing, vice chancellor for finance and administration. “They want to give back to the region and the people that helped build their business.”
The couple saw the new wellness center as a “good fit” because of the college’s partnership through the University of Virginia with the Healthy Appalachia Institute. The institute, whose mission is to improve the health, education, environment and prosperity of central Appalachia, will be able to use the building for training seminars, counseling and other programs.
Train & Partners from Charlottesville is the project’s architect while BurWil Construction of Bristol, Tenn., is in charge of construction. The project will include an 11,000-square-foot addition to an existing fitness center at the C. Bascom Slemp Student Center while renovating 5,833 square feet of the Fred B. Greear Gymnasium. The facility will house a new exercise area, multipurpose room and two conference rooms.
The center is named after Winston Ely, a graduate of the college who worked at U.Va.-Wise from 1974 until his retirement in 1990. “He came back part time as a development officer after he retired,” Ewing says. “He was instrumental in bringing many significant gifts to the college.”
The facility “will fulfill a tremendous need on campus and will provide services to our students and the region,” Ewing says.
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