Former UVA Wise College Board Member Gives $1 Million to help fund Student Potential and College Priorities

Quillen Court

Many have watched the University of Virginia’s College at Wise (UVA Wise) grow over the years since its founding in 1954. In his time watching it, Mike Quillen has discovered a favorite place: the David J. Prior Convocation Center. Soon, in recognition of Quillen’s philanthropy to the College, UVA Wise will name the Center’s court the Quillen Court. 

Quillen, who grew up in Gate City, Virginia, has won numerous leadership awards at various Southwest Virginia organizations, served on the UVA Wise College Board and led several local businesses that supported the College by providing internships to students. 

“I’ve attended the Economic Forum and athletic events at the Prior Center. It’s an impactful place. High school students come here and see it, and it’s impressive. As K-12 students come into the Prior Center, they are like ‘Wow!’” said Quillen. “The Prior Center is more than an asset to the College – it’s an asset to our community.” 

Soon, the Center’s court, on which the College’s basketball and volleyball teams compete, will bear the Quillen name thanks to the benefactor’s $1 million investment. That gift will benefit countless UVA Wise students and the larger regional community, which Quillen and his family and friends have worked for decades to build—personally and as he led several leading regional organizations. 

“When I’m out and about, people will come up and say ‘I worked for you,’ but I quickly point out, ‘We worked together,” Quillen says. “I’m passionate about and respectful of those co-workers during those several decades working in Wise County.” 

While his career included service as a leader at Paramont, and later, Alpha Natural Resources, Quillen is nowhere near the conclusion of his service to the region. In fact, he’s currently working alongside college or community leaders on leadership teams for Ballad Health, Delta Lab, GO Virginia Region One and the Southwest Virginia Energy Authority.

“Mike has been a steadfast supporter of the region and is so well respected that I’ve seen people tear up when talking about his legacy,” says UVA Wise Vice Chancellor for Advancement and Alumni Engagement Valerie S. Lawson, a 1987 graduate of the College. “Now, his gift will make a cross-campus impact of far more than $1 million.” 

Quillen has supported UVA Wise for a number of years and says his motivation is simple. 

“Once I saw how the College continued to meet what I really wanted it to do – serve the region – I was committed,” Quillen says.

Quillen knows students are not only the future of UVA Wise, but the future leaders of the Southwest Virginia region and areas like it across the country. 

“Our UVA Wise students are down to earth,” Quillen says. “They’re out here to improve themselves and their communities. They don’t necessarily want to be a corporate head—although they could be—they want to better their lives, the lives of their families and their community.” 

Working for his grandfather at a graveyard and later in other manual jobs, Quillen learned the value of hands-on experience, which he and his colleagues provided in turn through internships. And it is in honor of his colleagues, particularly those legacy Paramont employees that he is dedicating his gift to the College. 

“Wise County is such a big part of my life and that’s why I look forward to doing this” Quillen says.

UVA Wise Chancellor Donna P. Henry agrees but adds that Quillen himself has been vital in Southwest Virginia’s continuing growth. 

“Mike has dedicated decades of time, talent and gifts to the College and region and we couldn’t be more honored for his family’s name to appear on the court of the Prior Center,” says UVA Wise Chancellor Donna P. Henry. “This is one more step forward for UVA Wise and our community, which has been gaining unstoppable momentum over the past few years. Together, we are ready to show the world the possibilities of our students and the region we are proud to call home.”