For Immediate Release:
April 27, 2009
Primary Media Contact:
Public Relations Specialist
MIDDLETOWN and WARRENTON, Va. – Twenty-three philanthropy leaders from across the commonwealth were honored on April 21, 2009, at the Country Club of Virginia, as part of the fourth Annual Chancellor’s Award for Leadership in Philanthropy. The award recognizes outstanding contributions made to the growth and development of Virginia’s Community Colleges and their respective foundations.
The honoree for Lord Fairfax Community College (LFCC) was Bob G. Sowder, a Catlett resident, who was instrumental in helping establish the College’s Fauquier Campus.
While serving on the Fauquier Chamber of Commerce, Sowder and other community leaders were working to open a college center in Warrenton. The problem they faced was a lack of adequate facilities to house such an institution. The search was on to find someone who could afford to donate land or a facility to LFCC to expand into Fauquier County.
Sowder didn’t immediately think about donating his farm, but while selling alfalfa one day, he looked at his barn in a different light. He noticed that each of the stalls had a door on it. He grabbed a tape measure and found the dimensions of the barn to be 60 x 100 feet, with the stalls making six nice-size rooms.
At the next chamber meeting, Sowder proposed the gift of his barn and an interest-free loan of $90,000 for renovations. After further discussions and consultation with his accountant, Sowder later decided to give the College both the property and money. So, in 1988, he donated his barn to LFCC and began working to renovate the building.
After pouring his time, energy and money into renovations, Sowder saw the work completed in 1988. His gift appraised at $437,000, including the three and a half acres accompanying the barn.
Sowder negotiated for — and the College was given — 50 more acres when he sold the remainder of his farm to Fauquier County. Following these negotiations and the additional land given to LFCC, the Virginia General Assembly in 1996 appropriated $7.2 million to construct the current 60,000 square-foot classroom and administrative building on the Fauquier Campus. Celebration of the opening of the new campus building occurred three years later in 1999.
“LFCC is one of the best ways for students to obtain an education and adjust to the rigors of college,” said Sowder, a former LFCC Educational Foundation Board member who served on the Board from 1989 to 2007. “I’ve always felt that an education is a way to help people pull themselves up by their boot straps.”
Sowder has continued to support LFCC monetarily throughout the years, including the development of the Bob G. Sowder Scholarship. “I believe that you get so much more than you give,” Sowder said. “I meet parents and students who have benefited from the scholarship I established, allowing them to get an education when they might not have been able to otherwise. To have someone come up to you on the street, put their arm around you, and thank you for your gift. You can’t get much better than that.”
Without Sowder’s vision and generous donations, LFCC literally would not be where it is today. “My goal in life is to give back. Every little bit can have an impact.”
Founded in 1970, Lord Fairfax Community College is a multi-campus public institution of higher education. With four locations — Middletown, Warrenton, Luray-Page County and most recently, Vint Hill— the College serves eight localities in the Shenandoah Valley and northern Piedmont regions. The localities are the counties of Clarke, Fauquier, Frederick, Page, Rappahannock, Shenandoah and Warren and the city of Winchester. LFCC offers more than 75 associate degree and certificate programs in a wide variety of disciplines, in addition to providing access to bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree programs offered on site by a four-year institution. LFCC also serves the business community by offering workforce preparation programs for employees and employers. LFCC serves more than 9,000 unduplicated credit students and more than 11,000 individuals in professional development and business and industry courses annually.
Lord Fairfax Community College (LFCC) is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to award associate degrees. Contact the Commission on Colleges at 1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, Georgia 30033-4097 or call 404-679-4500 for questions about the accreditation of Lord Fairfax Community College. Lord Fairfax Community College is an equal opportunity institution providing educational and employment opportunities, programs, services, and activities and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, sex, age, religion, disability, national origin, marital status, political affiliation, sexual orientation, or other non-merit factors. LFCC also prohibits sexual misconduct including sexual violence or harassment.