Roanoke Rising Campaign concludes as largest in Roanoke College’s history

October 26, 2018

On Oct. 26, Roanoke College announced the record breaking conclusion of its Roanoke Rising Campaign. The campaign, publicly launched in April 2013 with a goal of $200 million, concluded having raised a total of $204,047,431.

This total makes Roanoke Rising the largest campaign in the College’s 176-year history.

More than 28,000 donors contributed to the campaign, coming from all 50 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, as well as 35 other countries. Roanoke alumni made up more than 40 percent of the donors to the campaign, with 26 percent coming from parents of Roanoke students and the remainder from corporations, foundations and friends of the College.

Roanoke Rising transformed the College campus. A new athletic and academic complex, the Morris M. Cregger Center, opened in 2016. Named for Morris M. Cregger ’64, chair of the Roanoke College Board of Trustees and a member of College’s Athletic Hall of Fame. Cregger was a four-sport letterman who grew up in the Roanoke Valley. He is now the CEO of a Columbia, South Carolina-based plumbing supply company.

The Cregger Center features a performance gymnasium; the Kerr-Cregger Fieldhouse, which includes a 200-meter indoor track; an athletic training clinic; the Belk Fitness Center; two classrooms; a Health and Human Performance lab; offices for Health and Human performance faculty; athletic department offices; and locker rooms for 10 teams and two visiting teams.

The Cregger Center is the academic home of the Health and Human Performance Department. More than 200 students major in Health and Exercise Science, Sports Management, Health and Physical Education and Athletic Training.

In addition to Roanoke College athletic events, the Cregger Center, Kerr-Cregger Fieldhouse  and Kerr Stadium have hosted NCAA championships with the City of Salem, as well as Virginia High School League events and events for high schools and conferences from across the region.

Roanoke’s athletic quad was further developed as the Maroon Athletic Quad, an outdoor quadrangle landscaped as a gathering place for Roanoke students. “The MAQ,” as students call the space, is located in the proximity of the Cregger Center, Kerr Stadium, several residence halls and the Colket Center, the College’s student center.

Outside the Cregger Center, Luther Plaza was created as a gathering space at the Peery Drive entrance to campus. Luther Plaza pays tribute to Roanoke’s heritage as the second-oldest Lutheran college in America. The plaza features a bronze sculpture of Martin Luther, created by Betty and Polly Branch, mother and daughter sculptors. Luther Plaza and the Martin Luther statue were dedicated in 2016, just prior to the 500th anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation.

New residential spaces for students were added with the construction of New Hall, which replaced Bowman, an older residence hall removed for the Cregger construction. The Wortmann Complex, a three building residence hall complex on Market Street, was renovated and expanded.

Roanoke’s Fintel Library was remodeled to include new computer spaces, interactive meeting spaces and a coffee shop. Fintel Library is now a major gathering spot on campus for students as well as faculty and staff.

Antrim Chapel was updated with a more modern and inviting entrance. The chapel now features the Bittle Tree of Life Cross, made of wood from Roanoke’s historic Bittle Tree. The tree planted by Roanoke’s founder, Dr. David Bittle, more than a century ago, was removed in 2014 for safety reasons.

Roanoke Rising was not solely about new buildings and new spaces on the Roanoke College campus. Much of the campaign supported academic programs. Today, 94 percent of Roanoke students engage in some type of experiential learning such as study away, internships, research projects, published work and conference presentations. Most students gain five such experiences during their time at Roanoke.

Other new programs, such as the Joanne Leonhardt Cassullo Center for Art, support artistic endeavors across the campus. Two new natural art installations include the Tree of 40 Fruit and a large scale topiary of Rooney, Roanoke’s hawk mascot, who overlooks the Maroon Athletic Quad. The Leonhardt Cassullo Center also supports art programs in Olin Gallery, such as the recent community art project, Paper Blooms.

Hundreds of scholarships and program endowments were created , including the Shirley C. and Donald E. Morel MD Dean’s Chair, a position held by Dr. Richard Smith, vice president for Academic Affairs and dean of the College.

Roanoke’s academic offerings were expanded during Roanoke Rising as well. Four new academic majors were created, along with nine new minors and concentrations.  

New majors include: Actuarial Science; Biochemistry (B.A.); Interdisciplinary Studies; and Public Health Studies. New minors include: Health and Exercise Science; History; Public Health Studies; and Theatre. New concentrations include: Materials and Nanoscience; Medicinal Chemistry; Middle East Studies; Middle Education; and Screen Studies.

National scholarships have been an academic focus for Roanoke College. Roanoke students have received 15 Fulbright scholarships over the past five years, resulting in Roanoke being named a Top Fulbright producing institution by the Chronicle of Higher Education in 2018. Roanoke students also have been Gilman Scholars, Goldwater Scholars, as well as Rhodes Scholar finalists.

Roanoke College helps students find, build and live their passion. Roanoke College is a place where students learn from an innovative core curriculum and specialize in majors that allow for depth of study and research. It is a place where virtually all students participate in internships, creative projects, research, community service or study away. Roanoke is one of just seven percent of colleges nationwide with a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, the nation’s oldest and most prestigious honor society.

Follow Roanoke College on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and SnapChat. For additional information, call the Roanoke College Public Relations Office at (540) 375-2282 or visit  

Experiencing Egypt: Seeing culture through pottery

June 4, 2018

Professor and two students holding potteryThe generosity of an anonymous Roanoke College donor enabled two students to travel to Elephantine Island, Egypt, for five weeks last year. Roanoke College art history majors Serena Soterakopoulos ’18 and Jacob Friedrich ’19 dove into the rich archaeological history of Elephantine Island while exploring the current vibrancy of the Egyptian culture.

Soterakopoulos and Friedrich are ceramic research assistants for Dr. Leslie Anne Warden, assistant professor of art history and archaeology. Normally, they conduct their research-primarily the analysis of ceramic material procured from various Egyptian archeological sites-on campus.

The two students assisted on the “Realities of Life” archaeological project, which is run by the German Archaeological Institute, Cairo, under the direction of Dr. Johanna Sigl. The project studies an ancient Egyptian settlement on the southeastern portion of the island, located in the middle of the Nile River.

Soterakopoulos and Friedrich worked with Warden, the project’s head ceramicist, to process ceramic material that had been excavated during a previous season. In a joint report about their experience, the students said “everyday objects, such as pottery, can tell us about daily activities and cultural influences, thus better explaining the life of an everyday ancient Egyptian from Elephantine.”

Through their work at the site and their experience seeing modern Egypt, the student archeologists said they discovered “an unavoidable link between ancient and modern times that can be seen through pottery and the island itself.” They had a “plethora” of ceramic material to work with that gave them insight into how ancient Egyptian society functioned. By analyzing a wide range of vessels and forms, such as cooking pots, jars, bowls, platters, and bread moulds, they were able to differentiate across different time periods, locations, and uses.

Warden said her students’ important work “helped forward an understanding of the ceramics and their reflection of daily life and activity in Middle Kingdom homes on the island.” Warden will be returning to a different site in Egypt this year and she hopes to interest her younger students in joining her on an annual basis.

The anonymous donor who sponsored the travel was inspired to do so by personal experience at a foreign university as a student.

“The experience was eye-opening, mind-broadening and fulfilling,” the donor said. “Even at the airport terminal I was overcome with the new sights, sounds and ‘foreign’ people…Trips away from home base broadened the experience and filled me with wonder at the diversity of the world. I returned home a new and enlightened person.”

Soterakopoulos and Friedrich expressed their gratitude for their donor’s kindness and for those involved in the “Realities of Life” project. “It was an incredible experience to dive deep into the traces of the past,” they wrote, “especially when we realized that the past and present of Egypt are tangled together in such remarkable ways.”

To read a firsthand account of the students’ work on the “Realities of Life” archaeological project, please click here

Local Donor Establishes $2.35 million Scholarship for Exceptional Student(s)

June 7, 2017


A local retired professor will establish a new student scholarship at Roanoke College that places it among the most generous financial aid packages in the country. Structured to ensure that exceptionally motivated and talented students will graduate virtually debt free, this scholarship will provide the full cost of recipients’ tuition, room, board, books, and mandatory fees, as well as expenses related to an Honors Distinction Project, an independent project that builds a graduate-level portfolio of practical experience in research or creative works.

On condition of anonymity, the donor established the scholarship in honor of his grandmother, who influenced his intellectual pursuits. The Seubert Endowed Scholarship for Honors Students will be awarded based upon a student’s demonstrated academic record and scholarly potential. “In my career, I was privileged to work with many great minds,” says the benefactor, “and I believed that truly meritorious academic achievement deserved an extraordinary reward.”

“It’s the first of its kind at Roanoke College,” says Dr. Brenda P. Poggendorf, Vice President for Enrollment and Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid. “In my experience, few colleges or universities offer a merit-based award this generous and all encompassing.” The renewable, endowed scholarship will fully fund one or more students who maintain their Honors Program status for the duration of their Roanoke academic career, regardless of their families’ ability to pay for college.

“The scholarship will be a powerful resource for recruiting exceptional students and providing them with remarkable experiences that lead to personal and professional success,” affirms Dr. Chad T. Morris, Director of the Honors Program.

At present, approximately nine percent of the College’s 2,000 students participate in its selective Honors Program. Roanoke’s Honors Program has its own general education curriculum designed to provide enhanced academic rigor, heightened intellectual discourse, and significant engagement with communities beyond the classroom. Program participants pursue independent research and fields of study that have placed them among the most prepared college graduates in the U.S.

“Families recognize the value and distinctiveness of a private higher education. This scholarship places Roanoke within reach of anyone willing to work hard enough to be the best,” says

Dr. Richard A. Smith, Vice President for Academic Affairs and the Shirley C. and Donald E. Morel Dean of the College.

For more information about the Honors program or other scholarship programs at Roanoke College, please contact the Admissions Office at 540-375-2270.

Preservation group lauds Clay Street House, Bank Building restoration

February 24, 2017


A local preservation group has recognized a former house and future museum site on Roanoke College’s campus as historically significant.

The Roanoke Valley Preservation Foundation presented Roanoke with an adaptive reuse award for its restoration work at Clay Street House, located adjacent to the College at Clay Street and Thompson Memorial Avenue. Each year, the nonprofit recognizes restoration, adaptive reuse and other heritage and historical projects in the Roanoke area.

The Clay Street House’s recognition comes a year after the foundation presented the College with another preservation award –  the renovation of the former Farmers National Bank building on Main Street, which now houses Roanoke’s History department faculty. The building’s main floor now is used as an event and exhibition space for the College and the History department.

The two-room Clay Street House, known formerly as the Tanyard House and the Burke Cabin, is one of the oldest homes in Salem, and it has been nominated for state and national historic registries, according to the foundation. Local historians estimate that the structure was built in the mid-19th century.

Renovations to the small house’s exterior began several years ago after the College received two donations to fund the work. Southwest Restoration in Roanoke did much of the restoration.

Once the house’s interior renovations are complete, the home eventually will become a 19th century Salem domestic museum site, said Dr. Mark Miller, who is David F. Bittle Historian of the College and a History professor.  The College needs about $54,000 to complete the home’s interior restoration, which would involve replacing missing floorboards and reconditioning the walls, among other work, he said.

A 1930’s addition to the back of the house also will be repurposed as a work space for students and as storage for materials.

Miller said he expects the interior work to be complete by the end of this year.

Miller and Dr. Whitney Leeson, a professor of History and Anthropology at the College, said Roanoke students will work in the museum, preparing exhibits and working with artifacts. Some of Leeson’s archeology classes already have used the site for excavations.

Another class, an architecture and historic preservation course taught Dr. Gary Dent, has analyzed the structure’s architectural features.

Along with the site serving as a learning space for students, it could connect well with large Salem historic events and other community initiatives, Leeson said.

“There are a lot of creative things that could be done,” she said.

Roanoke marks important anniversaries in 2017

January 13, 2017


Roanoke College kicks off a year of celebration in 2017. This year marks two anniversaries important to the College: the 175th anniversary of the College’s founding and the 500th anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation.

Maroon Momentum 175

The theme of the 175th anniversary celebration is Maroon Momentum. Throughout the year, Roanoke will celebrate its history as well as the incredible progress the College has made, particularly that of the past 25 years.

The first 175th event was the campus kickoff at Maroon Madness on Jan. 25 in the Cregger Center. Roanoke College Athletics and Student Government Association (SGA) sponsored the annual event during a men’s and women’s basketball doubleheader.

Roanoke women faced Hollins University, also celebrating its 175th anniversary this year. The men’s game against Emory & Henry followed. Between games, there was a special performance by Steve Max, a full-time professional “Simon Sez” (Simon Says) caller. Known nationally for his appearances on TV and at NBA and NCAA basketball halftimes, Max has taken this classic kids’ game to a whole new level!

Reformation 500

As the second oldest Lutheran college in the United States, Roanoke College is also part of this year’s worldwide celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. Observances marking the posting of the 95 Theses by Martin Luther in 1517 will be ecumenical and forward-looking as we seek to learn from Catholic, Pentecostal, Orthodox, Reformed, Evangelical, Jewish and secular perspectives. A variety of free public lectures will be held throughout the year.

Many more events and activities will be scheduled in the spring and fall semesters to celebrate these important milestones. Watch the web calendar for additional events.

Roanoke magazine

The current issue of Roanoke magazine features the 175th anniversary, with vignettes on the progress Roanoke has made since its 150th anniversary in 1992. An upcoming issue of the magazine will examine the Reformation’s impact on the College’s movement into the future.


Bronze statue of Martin Luther to be dedicated on Reformation Sunday, Oct. 30

October 25, 2016

101216-020-creggerRoanoke College will dedicate a bronze statue of Martin Luther on Sunday, Oct. 30, which is Reformation Sunday, during a 4 p.m. ceremony at the new Morris M. Cregger Center’s Luther Plaza. Luther Plaza is the plaza in front of the Center’s High Street entrance at the intersection of High Street and Peery Drive.

The Cregger Center will be dedicated on Thursday, Oct. 27. More information on that event is here.

Roanoke is the second oldest Lutheran college in America. Luther Plaza and the statue of Martin Luther honor Roanoke’s Lutheran heritage on this year’s Reformation Sunday, marking the 499th anniversary of the day Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses on the church door in Wittenberg, Germany in 1517.

The statue was donated by Charles and Helen Schumann of Richmond, Virginia.  The Schumanns are longtime supporters of Roanoke College and its Lutheran heritage. Their gifts to Roanoke have made possible two professorships in recent years – the Charles and Helen Schumann Professor of Christian Ethics, held by Dr. James Peterson, and the Charles and Helen Schumann Professor of Lutheran Theology, held by Dr. Ned Wisnefske.

The statue is a bronze one-and-a-half larger than life figure of Martin Luther, created by sculptors Betty and Polly Branch of Roanoke, Virginia. The bronze statue is on a 3,800 pound base of absolute black granite from Uruguay. It is engraved with the name of the statue, “Martin Luther,” as well as the three Lutheran colleges that make up the Roanoke alumni heritage –  Roanoke College, Marion College and Elizabeth College. A plaque placed next to the statue holds a quote from the writings of Martin Luther.

Marion College was a Lutheran women’s college in Marion, Virginia, which closed in 1968. Elizabeth College was also a Lutheran women’s college in Salem, once located where Roanoke’s Elizabeth campus is now. Elizabeth College closed after a fire in 1921. Alumnae of both Elizabeth College and Marion College became part of the Roanoke College alumni body and Roanoke maintains the records of the now-closed colleges.

Members of the media and the community are invited to the Martin Luther statue dedication to celebrate Roanoke’s close ties to the Lutheran Church.

Betty Branch earned both her bachelor of arts and master of arts from Hollins University. Proficient in both painting and sculpture, she has spent a portion of many years working at Nicoli Studios in Carrara, Italy. Branch’s award winning art has been exhibited internationally and has been the subject of television documentaries. Her works, from small to monumental, are in many private, corporate, university and museum collections.

Polly Branch, Betty Branch’s daughter, is a community artist and peace advocate working in a variety of media. Her landscapes and figures most often depict an energetic connection to the natural environment. Her murals and mosaics can be seen in Roanoke neighborhoods across the valley.  Polly Branch earned her bachelor of arts in biology from University of Richmond and a master of arts in liberal studies from Hollins University. She sculpts large scale works with her mother.


Roanoke College to dedicate new Cregger Center

October 25, 2016

081016-109-roanoke-college-cregger-centerRoanoke College will dedicate its new athletic and academic complex, the Morris M. Cregger Center, during a ceremony on Thursday, Oct. 27 at 4 p.m.

The ceremony, which will be held in the center’s arena, will include remarks from Roanoke President Mike Maxey, Scott Allison, director of athletics, and Morris Cregger ’64, for whom the center is named. Cregger, who played four sports while at Roanoke, is chair of the College’s Board of Trustees and a charter member of the Athletic Hall of Fame. He is CEO of Cregger Co., Inc., a South Carolina-based plumbing supply business with 32 locations.

The 155,000-square-foot Cregger Center opened in August. It rises five stories and features a 200-meter indoor track in the Kerr-Cregger Field House, a health and human performance lab, an athletic training clinic, a performance gymnasium, the Belk Fitness Center, 10 team locker rooms and more.

Luther Plaza, the outdoor space at the center’s entrance on High Street, features a statue of Martin Luther. It was created by local sculptors, Betty and Polly Branch.

At the back of the center is an outdoor patio that overlooks Kerr Stadium. The patio is named Pirro Patio in memory of former Roanoke lacrosse player and coach, John Pirro ’77.

More than $30.5 million was raised for construction of the Cregger Center. Its estimated economic impact is $1.4 million annually.

Roanoke College receives estate gift for Business Administration and Economics students

October 5, 2016

john-spitzWe are pleased to announce and gratefully acknowledge the life and career contributions of Dr. John V. Spitz and Mrs. Lela Spitz.

John Spitz joined Roanoke College as a professor of Economics in 1969, and he went on to serve a distinguished career teaching business and economics and inspiring many young people to pursue careers in the field. His appreciation for business began as a child, through his father’s successful stores and services, and his outlook was further informed as a youth, fleeing Nazi-controlled Germany and ultimately settling with his family in the United States. He earned his B.A. at Duke University and his Ph.D. at the University of Tennessee.

Lela Spitz was a graduate of the University of Tennessee and Knoxville Business College, and she worked for many years in the Roanoke College Admissions office. She was very active in community affairs serving on multiple Roanoke Valley non-profit boards of directors. She also was a political activist working for the Equal Rights Amendment and consumer rights.

The Spitzes’ estate gift will establish the Dr. John and Lela Spitz Endowed Scholarship in Business Administration and Economics. It will be awarded to a rising senior student with a GPA of 3.5 or higher, with preference given to a student with significant loan indebtedness. A portion of the estate will also be used to establish an endowment to provide an annual award of $500 to the Dr. John and Lela Spitz Outstanding Student in Business Analytics (Quantitative Methods).

Other funds will be used to establish the Dr. John and Lela Spitz Endowment to support programming intended to provide Roanoke College students with training, skills and confidence to be successful entrepreneurs. Funds may also be used to support student projects and research, travel for conferences, field trips, awards, lectures/workshops for students, the Federal Reserve Challenge and other opportunities as they may be identified and approved by the Dean of the College and the chair of the Business Administration and Economics Department in support of students.

Additional estate proceeds, which may be distributed to Roanoke in the future, will be subject to designation by the Board of Trustees to support the highest need of the College.


Children honor their parents’ legacy with financial gift to Roanoke College

October 3, 2016



Donald Morel found his future at Roanoke College. The first in his family to attend college, the Midland Park, New Jersey, native was extremely proud of the education that prepared him for medical school and an eventual career in medicine.

Roanoke also was where Morel, a member of Sigma Chi fraternity, found love.

He met Shirley Childs, a Chi Omega sorority member who’d grown up in Rich Creek, Virginia, and graduated at the top of her Narrows High School class. The two, both chemistry majors, married after they graduated in 1956.

Donald Morel went on to attend the Medical College of Virginia in Richmond and spent much of the 1960s in medical training and service in the U.S. Army as a captain and medical examiner. The family also lived in Germany for three years as part of his military work.

After retiring from the Army as a lieutenant colonel, Donald Morel became chief of nuclear medicine at the former Allentown General Hospital in Pennsylvania.  Shirley Morel worked as a chemist while her husband attended medical school. She also was a self-taught gourmet cook and a concert pianist who loved Mozart, Liszt and Chopin. The couple had two children, Donald Jr. and Michelle.

An avid learner, Shirley Morel taught herself differential calculus in order to help Donald Jr. with his high school homework.

Donald Morel Sr. died in 1988; Shirley Morel in 2015.

This year, the Morel children, recognizing their parents’ belief in the importance of leaving a legacy at their alma mater, established Roanoke College’s Shirley C. and Donald E. Morel MD Dean’s Chair in memory of their parents. The position currently is held by Dr. Richard Smith, who is vice president for Academic Affairs and dean of the College.

The Morels asked that their gift benefit the sciences at Roanoke College.

“Their gift helps ensure that our science facilities, equipment and programs remain at the forefront of what the best liberal arts colleges offer and that the learning opportunities we provide to our students are second to none,” Smith said.

Education was extremely important to the Morels.

“Dad was very proud of the education that he received at Roanoke,” said Michelle Morel. “It was the springboard for him to be accepted at medical school.”

Ultimately, a financial offering to Roanoke “was my dad’s wish,” said Dr. Donald Morel Jr. “Roanoke meant a lot to him.”

It is a symbol of the Morels’ legacy at Roanoke, said President Mike Maxey.

“This gift honors two of our alumni who not only found a passion for science at Roanoke, but also a lifelong relationship with each other,” he said. “Their lives have now come full circle back to the College through this significant gift. This is a wonderful legacy for the Morels and a very special honor for the College.”

Maroon ribbons highlight philanthrophic support

April 12, 2016

MaroonRibbons-2For Alumni Weekend, students placed maroon ribbons around campus to highlight many of the spaces, programs and projects made possible thanks to generous and thoughtful gifts from donors.

These ribbons represent the tangible ways that philanthropic dollars support our campus, and the magnitude of the impact of these gifts made an impression on the community and on the many visitors on campus for Alumni Weekend.

Even with this show of color, the maroon ribbons do not begin to recognize all of the people affected by gifts — students receiving scholarships, professorships funded by donors,  the endowment and operating funds that support every aspect of college life year after year.

Roanoke is extraordinary.  Every day, like generations of individuals who have lived and worked on this campus before, Roanoke is touched by the generosity and commitment of alumni, parents, faculty, staff, corporations, foundations, and friends of the College.

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