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UVa-Wise holds ribbon cutting ceremony for new Convocation Center

The University of Virginia’s College at Wise held a ribbon cutting ceremony on Monday, Oct. 10 on its $30 million Convocation Center, a facility that many see as a vital part of the region’s economic development efforts.

The Virginia General Assembly funded the 78,000 square foot facility after a strong effort from the Southwest Virginia legislative delegation. The Coalfield region had no venue capable of housing conventions, tradeshows and other events that economic development officials saw as a necessity. The region’s lawmakers joined UVa-Wise officials, University of Virginia officials and leaders from the region Monday to celebrate the official opening of the facility.

"This is a great building,” said Delegate Terry Kilgore. “Our team in Richmond worked tirelessly for this college and this region. With this delegation, this college has grown immensely throughout the years.”

Kilgore praised the strong relationship between UVa-Wise and the University of Virginia and said the region’s young people benefit greatly from the partnership.

Teresa Sullivan, president of the University of Virginia, said the Convocation Center would enhance the experience of UVa-Wise students and will allow the college to reach a new level of service and interaction with the region. She pointed out that the entire campus when the college was founded in 1954 would fit into the Convocation Center today.

“This Convocation Center represents 78,000 square feet of opportunity,” Sullivan said.

David J. Prior, chancellor of UVa-Wise, said the opening of the Convocation Center is a defining moment for the college.

“The facility brings our college new opportunities and more responsibility and we embrace both,” Prior said. “Our students, our faculty and staff and our region’s citizens will all benefit for many years to come.”

Helen Dragas, rector of the University of Virginia, said UVa-Wise is living its unique mission of offering educational opportunity and excellence to its students and serving the Southwest Virginia region.

“The Convocation Center is this partnership manifested in beautiful brick and stone,” Dragas said. “Both the university and the college exist to serve the people of our great Commonwealth. Today, I am delighted to witness us doing it so very, very well.”

Marcia Gilliam, chair of the UVa-Wise Board, said the college is a haven of hope to students and their families, and will serve as a beacon for athletics, events, conferences and economic investment.

“This Convocation Center will bring countless young people to UVa-Wise,” Gilliam said. “While those young people are watching a regional high school playoff game, singing along at a concert or enjoying a farm exhibit, they are getting a taste of this college and what might be possible for them.”