An anonymous donor has made a gift of $1.5 million to Virginia Tech to help revitalize Virginia Cooperative Extension’s community development services, which suffered deep state budget cuts in the early 1990s.

The funds will create a Chair of Excellence for Community Viability in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, which will be dedicated to assuring a strong, permanent community development role for Virginia Cooperative Extension.

The new position will become the cornerstone of a renewed effort by Virginia Cooperative Extension to provide community development expertise to communities throughout the commonwealth through substantial investments in programs such as the new Innovation Communities initiative.

The anonymous gift honors three long-time community resource development Extension personnel: Doug McAlister, retired director of program development and continuing education; Michael Chandler, professor emeritus of agricultural and applied economics; and Don Lacy, former associate professor of agricultural and applied economics, now at Ohio State University. All three were early pioneers in community development, and their work is recognized for its positive impact on the economic development of communities across the commonwealth. The gift ensures the continuation of this important work throughout Virginia.

According to Mark McCann, interim associate dean and interim director of Virginia Cooperative Extension, “We have always had a vision for community development in the commonwealth, and through this gift we will be able to revitalize the program and work with the communities in renewed vigor to create economies that can provide new jobs to attract and retain an educated citizenry and provide a high quality of life for families.” McCann notes that the Innovation Communities initiative, central to Cooperative Extension’s community development efforts, has been launched, and new faculty members have been hired in many areas of the state.

The new chair will play a pivotal role in energizing the Innovation Communities initiative, providing guidance to new faculty, and building a strong presence for community development initiatives at the local level.

This generous gift will further strengthen the unique collaboration between Virginia Tech and local communities that rely on the transfer of knowledge to enhance locally available skills and resources. “Private giving has contributed immeasurably to making Virginia Tech a world-class institution. Through the donor’s generous support, Virginia Cooperative Extension will continue to build its programming efforts related to rural community economic viability and sustainability in the future, which we had to put on the back-burner as a result of the cuts in state funding over a decade ago,” Sharron Quisenberry, dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, noted.

Further information on the community viability initiative is available on the web.

Virginia Cooperative Extension provides the research-based educational resources of the land-grant universities, Virginia Tech and Virginia State University, to individuals, families, groups, and organizations, especially in the areas of agriculture and natural resources, family and consumer sciences, community viability, and 4-H youth development. A network of on-campus and local Extension educators provide leadership through 107 Extension Offices, six 4-H Educational Centers and 13 Agricultural Research and Extension Centers. Extension is a cooperative effort of local governments, state government, the land-grant universities, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

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