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UVa-Wise breaks ground on Winston Ely Health and Wellness Center

UVa-Wise breaks ground on Winston Ely Health and Wellness Center

UVa-Wise breaks ground on Health and Wellness facility

(Photo by Tim Cox)

July 19, 2012 --- WISE- Officials and friends joined The University of Virginia’s College at Wise today to break ground on a long-anticipated project that solidifies the College’s commitment to supporting and encouraging health and wellness on campus and in Southwest Virginia.

The $8.3 million project, made possible by a generous gift from the Richard and Leslie Gilliam Foundation, will include a new 11,000 square foot addition to the C. Bascom Slemp Student Center’s existing fitness center and the renovation of 5,833 square feet of the Fred B. Greear Gymnasium. The center will house a new exercise area, a multipurpose room for yoga, dance and other activities, two conference rooms for individual and group health advising and instruction, and locker rooms. The center is slated for completion in December 2013.

The facility also will support the efforts of the Healthy Appalachia Institute, a partnership between the College and the University of Virginia to promote wellness in the region.

“Major projects like this come to fruition only with the concerted, combined efforts of visionaries and doers,” said Marcia Gilliam, a 1982 graduate of UVa-Wise and chair of College Board. “Richard and Leslie Gilliam are doers. For many years they have made good things happen at UVa-Wise and in Southwest Virginia.”

“UVa-Wise has been tremendously important to the Gilliam family,” said Leslie Gilliam, adding that one of the primary reasons the family supports UVa-Wise is the wealth of opportunities it offers the region and its residents. “We have not forgotten where we came from,” she said. “We’re so excited about the future of UVa-Wise.”

While visiting colleges with their children, the Gilliams noticed that most schools had fitness and wellness centers as a major component of campus life. Establishing the center at UVa-Wise could attract and retain students while also making a positive impact on the region’s health, she said. Supporting the work of the Healthy Appalachia Institute and its focus on the health of the region could have a lasting impact on the health of the region, she said.

Richard and Leslie Gilliam recommended the facility be named to honor Winston Ely, a long-time employee of the College. The UVa-Wise College Board approved the request and dubbed the facility the Winston Ely Health and Wellness Center.

“We’ve noticed through the years how much Winston Ely cares about the students,” she said. “Winston, we are pleased to honor you for your service and dedication.”

Several officials from the University of Virginia also attended the groundbreaking. Leonard Sandridge, special assistant to University President Teresa Sullivan, read a letter from Sullivan offering congratulations on the groundbreaking and thanking the Gilliams for their generosity.

Hunter Craig, a member of the University of Virginia’s Board of Visitors, said the Gilliams have been instrumental in the growth and success of UVa-Wise and its mission in Southwest Virginia, and have challenged the College to even greater heights of service and excellence.

David C. Gordon, co-director of the Healthy Appalachia Institute, said UVa-Wise is taking bold action to promote health and wellness on campus and in the community.

“The climb to wellness begins at UVa-Wise,” he said.


Richard Gilliam, a native of Wise, is a 1974 graduate of UVa-Wise, then known as Clinch Valley College. He was founder and Chief Executive Officer of Cumberland Resources, a top coal company that was purchased by Massey Energy in 2010. Leslie Gilliam is from Jonesville and is a 1982 graduate of James Madison University. She serves on the James Madison University Board of Visitors.

The Gilliams are active in many business and charitable interests and are deeply supportive of Southwest Virginia and its residents. They live in Charlottesville and have three children, Baxter, Julia and Anna.


Winston Ely, a 1961 graduate of the College, started work at Clinch Valley College in 1974. He has been director of cooperative education, placement services, and adult studies and continuing education. He retired in 1990, but has worked in the UVa-Wise Office of Development, first as director of development and as senior campaign advisor reporting to the Chancellor. He has served and continues to serve on many boards, civic and church organizations.

For more information, contact Kathy Still, director of news and media relations, at 276-376-1027 or email