Distinguished Alumni Award
Established in 2006 by the Virginia Western Alumni Association, the Distinguished Alumni Award recognizes Virginia Western Community College alumni and former students who have attained extraordinary distinction in their professional field or life and serves to honor all the men and women whose attendance at Virginia Western helped them achieve their educational and professional goals allowing them to better serve their communities.
For more information on the Virginia Western Alumni Association, see virginiawestern.edu/alumni or contact Philanthropy Director Amanda Mansfield at or (540) 857-6962.
Distinguished Alumni Award Recipients
2018 - Elizabeth Testerman ’06
Elizabeth Testerman is a a Human Resources Consultant for American Electric Power/Appalachian Power Company. She received her Associate of Applied Science in Management from Virginia Western Community College in 2006. She also received a Bachelor Science in Organizational Management and Leadership from Bluefield College in 2007 (accelerated). Ms. Testerman has volunteered as a mentor and community advocate for Virginia Western’s Women in STEM Mentoring Program. The initiative taps community mentors to assist female students and special populations in professional matters and to provide them career-networking opportunities.
2017 - Dr. Carol Swain ’78
Dr. Swain is a nationally recognized author, public speaker and political commentator, and the author or editor of seven books. Her scholarly work has been cited in two Supreme Court cases; her fields include race relations, immigration, representation and evangelical politics. Dr. Swain was born in impoverished conditions in Bedford, Va., as the second of 12 children. She dropped out of high school in the ninth grade but later received her GED and enrolled at Virginia Western Community College. After graduating from Virginia Western with an associate’s degree in business merchandising, Dr. Swain earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Roanoke College (’83, magna cum laude), a master’s degree in political science from Virginia Tech (’84), a doctorate in political science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (’89) and a Master of Studies in Law degree from Yale University (’00).
2016 - Mary B. Loritsch & Michael A. Crawley
Mary B. Loritsch, Ed.D., R.T. (R) ’74
Dr. Loritsch graduated with honors from the first class of the Radiography program at Virginia Western in 1974, and has served the institution faithfully for more than 38 years. She retired in December 2015 as Professor and Radiography Program Director, and has since returned to continue to serve Virginia Western students as Adjunct Radiography Faculty. She received her Bachelor of Science from Radford University, and her Master of Arts and doctorate degrees from Virginia Tech.
Dr. Loritsch is well-known for her national committee leadership and expertise in health care education accreditation, compliance, education, privacy and radiology. A leading member of both the American and Virginia Societies of Radiologists, Dr. Loritsch is a long-time advocate for national standards for the uses of medical radiation. Appointed by Gov. Mark Warner to serve on the first Radiological Technology Advisory Board in 2002, and reappointed by Gov. Tim Kaine to serve through 2010, Dr. Loritsch demonstrates a commitment to healthcare, higher education and scientific research that serves as an inspiration to her colleagues, students and peers.
Michael A. Crawley, Salem City Chief of Police
Chief Crawley is a Roanoke native who graduated from Patrick Henry High School in 1991. He attended Virginia Western Community College, where he met his wife, Amy, in 1995, and earned his bachelor’s degree in Management and Leadership from Bluefield College.
Chief Crawley began working with the Salem Police Department in 1999 as a patrol officer and quickly earned the respect of his colleagues and administrators. In 2002, he was voted by his peers as Officer of the Year. He was promoted to Senior Police Officer and in 2004 was assigned to the Special Investigations Unit of the Detective Division.
In 2006, Chief Crawley was transferred to the General Investigations Unit, where he rose to the rank of sergeant. He served as the services division sergeant and patrol division sergeant before being appointed Deputy Chief in 2014. He is the first African-American police chief in the city department’s 94-year history.
"We are proud to count Dr. Loritsch and Chief Crawley as among our students," said Dr. Robert H. Sandel, President of Virginia Western Community College. "Both have served their professions with remarkable dedication and earned the admiration of their peers. They demonstrate the impact that our students can make in the Roanoke Valley."
2015 - Deborah A. Yancey '97 & '98
"Debbie is well-known for the constant, compassionate dedication displayed toward her students," said Dr. Angela Falconetti, Vice President of Institutional Advancement and Executive Director of Virginia Western's Educational Foundation. "Debbie has always been a favorite teacher and valued colleague, and is a courageous, creative and graceful leader. She embodies the true spirit of service, scholarship and accomplishment that defines a 2015 Distinguished Alumni."
Yancey's relationship with Virginia Western began in 1996, when she became a student as well as a part-time tutor. She completed an associate's degree in Accounting with cum laude honors in May 1997, receiving another associate's degree in Management, again cum laude, in December of that same year. She received a third AAS in Banking & Finance from VWCC in 1998. She received her BA in Accounting from Radford University in 2000, and she achieved a Master's of Business Administration from Averett University in 2003.
Yancey became an adjunct faculty instructor in 2003, moving to full time within a few years. She continued to teach until 2014, and currently serves the College as Dean of Business, Technology and Trades.
Her commitment to student success is nowhere more evident than in her Suits for Students initiative.
Striving to best prepare students for their futures, Yancey had her students undergo "mock real-world interviews." The exercise required students to actually prepare and present themselves for an appointment with a new employer.
Knowing that dressing for success is not always possible for everyone, Yancey collected suits for the students to borrow if needed. To do so, she gathered donations or purchased the suits herself. These suits have since been donated to the Hall Associates Career Center on campus to continue to help Virginia Western students make the transition to real-world success.
2014 - Chief Craig S. Harris '00 & J. David Wine '73
Chief Craig S. Harris
Chief Craig Harris, Virginia Western Community College class of 2000, became Chief of Police at the College in 2005 and works tirelessly for the benefit of the entire community. He started his police leadership career with the Vinton Police Department in 1999. He worked as a police detective until 2003 and was promoted to Sergeant of the Investigations Division.
While with the Vinton Police, he enrolled at Virginia Western with the goal of furthering his career in police leadership. He pursued an Associate of Science in General Studies and went on to receive a Bachelor of Science in Administration of Justice from Bluefield College in 2002 and a Master of Science in Business Management from Liberty University in 2009.
In addition to leading the campus police force, he began teaching as an adjunct faculty member in the School of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences Associate of Science in Administration of Justice program.
In 2011-12, he served as the Secretary for the Blue Ridge Association of Chiefs of Police, and is a member of several professional organizations including the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police, Blue Ridge Association of Chiefs of Police, Virginia Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators, Virginia Forensic Science Academy Alumni Association, and the Cardinal Criminal Justice Academy Governing Board.
He led Virginia Western to be ranked as the safest college of 2012 in Virginia and eighth safest college or university in the United States by stateuniversity.com. A recipient of the Classified Staff Outstanding Achievement Award in 2009, and two Police Officer of the Year awards in 2001, Chief Harris has long proved his commitment to professionalism in his field.
Chief Harris has been married 19 years to his wife Jill, and they have a beautiful daughter named Anna who is 10-years-old.
Proud to be named a 2014 Distinguished Alumni Award, Chief Harris continues to serve the Virginia Western and Roanoke community as a consummate professional and dedicated servant of the law.
J. David Wine
J. David Wine, Virginia Western Community College class of 1973, enrolled at the College following an unsuccessful attempt at a four-year university. He turned an Associate of Science in General Studies into a productive career as an entrepreneur and community supporter.
Growing up in Botetourt County as the fourth generation of landowners at Crumpacker Orchards in the Bonsack area, Wine attended Lord Botetourt High School. He developed a life-long love of horticulture and gardening, and is proud for his urban organic garden to be on the 2014 Historic Garden Week Roanoke Garden Tour presented by The Mill Mountain Garden Club and Roanoke Valley Garden Club.
He and his wife Mary Ann live in the City of Roanoke, where they raised three children, who have now blessed them with seven grandchildren. David and Mary Ann enjoy retirement by traveling and serving their community.
Following graduation from Virginia Western in 1973, Wine began working in respiratory therapy at Pulaski Hospital. Soon, he started his own company, Advanced Healthcare Services, selling in-home nursing care equipment.
He got into the right business at the right time, and sold Advanced Healthcare Services to a corporate buyer in 1998.
Wine now serves as a member on the Roanoke Symphony Orchestra Board, Taubman Museum of Art Board, Roanoke College Advisory Board, Hollins College Advisory Board, Carilion Clinic Foundation Board, and the Virginia Western Educational Foundation Board.
He has long been a supporter of Virginia Western Community College, and is proud to serve his alma mater as a volunteer. He was honored to be named at 2014 Distinguished Alumni Award recipient.
2013 - Cheryl Cunningham '86
Virginia Western proudly announces that Cheryl Cunningham, Virginia Western Radiography faculty, is the 2013 Outstanding Alumni Award recipient. Cunningham was recognized by the Virginia Western Educational Foundation at the recent Scholarship and Awards Ceremony.
Cunningham graduated from Virginia Western Community College in 1986 with degree in radiography. She started her career as a Radiologic Technologist at Lewis Gale Clinic and Pulmonary Medicine Associates.
In 2003, she "came home" as an adjunct clinical instructor at Virginia Western. She said she knew teaching was what she wanted to do, and she pursued a Bachelor in Health Science in 2007 and Master in Community Health Education in 2009, both from Old Dominion University. She has also completed two Digital Radiography for Instructors Seminars at UNC-Chapel Hill.
Cheryl joined the radiography faculty at Virginia Western full-time in 2010, and continues to be active in the Virginia Society of Radiologic Technologists as well as at First Christian Church Roanoke and at Virginia Western. She served on the Virginia Western Alumni Council since 2007, chairing the council beginning in 2008 to present.
2012 - Anne Hogan '76
Anne H. Hogan graduated from Virginia Western Community College in 1976 with degree in nursing. She started her career as a Registered Nurse and is certified as a pediatric nurse and legal nurse consultant.
In 2003, Anne started her own private duty nursing business and now employs 20 nurses who care for patients in the home setting.
She graduated from the New York Institute of Photography in 2011 and started a photography business.
Her first children's book "The Three Amigos" was published in 2011 and she is now working on a second children's book.
Both of her children completed their first two years of college at Virginia Western, and went on to further their education.
"I feel very strongly that Virginia Western provides excellent opportunity for education to all ages at affordable cost," she said. "I would not be where I am today if it were not for Virginia Western."
Anne served on the Virginia Western Alumni Council since 2007 and is currently vice chair.
2011 - Carolyn Webster '81
Virginia Western Community College proudly announces that Carolyn Webster, senior vice president of nursing and chief nursing officer of Carilion Clinic, is the 2011 Outstanding Alumni Award recipient. Webster was recognized by Virginia Western at the recent Educational Foundation Annual Awards Ceremony.
Webster graduated from Virginia Western in 1981 with an Associate of Applied Science in Nursing, and has remained a supporter of the college throughout her career. She served on the Educational Foundation Board of Directors from 2002-2007 and again from 2010-present. She is currently a member of the Scholarship and Grants Committee.
She first joined Carilion in 1971, as a staff nurse, and has been an integral member of the hospital staff for over 36 years. She has held positions of staff development, Director of Emergency Department, and Vice President of Nursing Operations, before moving into her current role as Senior Vice President and Chief Nursing Officer of Carilion Clinic.
As the Roanoke native progressed in her career, she also added to her education, earning a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Radford University, a Master of Business Administration from Averett University, and attending the Wharton Fellows Program in Management for Nurse Executives.
2010 - Russell H. Ellis '80
An entrepreneur and software developer, Russ Ellis graduated from Virginia Western Community College in 1980 with a degree in data processing. A tireless supporter of Virginia Western, he served as president of the Virginia Western Educational Foundation Board of Directors in 2008 and 2009 and is co-chair of the Foundation's current major gifts campaign to support the Community College Access Program.
"Virginia Western serves such a critical need in building the workforce in the Valley and region," Ellis said. "It provides affordable education that really works. It makes a huge difference in students' ability to grow in their careers. I am interested in helping continue that in any way I can. This region needs the workforce that Virginia Western provides."
Russ is currently the owner of Rusty's Best Corporation and is president of Xcellos Corporation. His community involvement extends far beyond his outreach efforts on behalf of the college, he also serves on several community boards including the Taubman Museum of Art, the Roanoke Valley Governor's School, and The New Century Technology Council.
2009 - Shirl D. Lamanca '75
As a product of Virginia Western and now as Radiography Program Head and Interim Dean of Mathematics, Natural Science, and Health Technology, Shirl D. Lamanca can attest first hand to the life changing experiences that Virginia Western Community College offers. From her time in the classroom as a student to her time as a professor and now administrator, Shirl has dedicated herself to providing the highest caliber of service to her students, fellow employees, and to the field of Radiography.
Shirl was also instrumental in the creation of the Virginia Western Alumni Association in 2004 by serving on the first Alumni Council and by serving as Alumni Association Chair from 2005 through 2008.
2009 - Dennis R. Cronk '72
Dennis R. Cronk has been around the world and back-several times and will readily admit, "Virginia Western provided the foundation for me to move in the direction I did." That direction led him to become President/CEO of Poe & Cronk Real Estate Group. He has made numerous television appearances, and serves as chairman of an international trade delegation to the People's Republic of China. He is also a Past-President of the National Association of Realtors.
Through all of his experience and success, Dennis says "[it] all backs up to the fact that I am a small-town fellow who went to Virginia Western, got a foundation of knowledge, and took that and built on it, with loving support from my wife, family, and friends."
2008 - Donna L. Mitchell '81
Donna L. Mitchell is a 1981 graduate of Virginia Western Community College and credits the college with changing her life. "My years at Virginia Western were a pivotal time for me," she writes. "The warm, nurturing, empowering environment there brought me from a shy child to a self-confident young woman." A confidence that bred accomplishment, Donna transferred to Virginia Tech where she was "very well prepared" to earn separate degrees in Business Management and English. Not afraid to take risks, she found a niche where she could intertwine both her business and analytical skills as a stockbroker for UBS Financial Services Inc. for more than 20 years and, now, the Vice President of Investments.
Donna wrote in the College's 2006 annual report "Every day, Virginia Western proves the adage that, "If you give a man a fish you feed him for a day, but if you teach him how to fish you feed him for a lifetime." To further student's access to education, she and her family established the James Mark Mitchell Endowed Scholarship in 1997 in memory of her brother. In 2004 Donna and four of her classmates from Virginia Western established the Friendship Endowed Scholarship and the Friendship Annual Scholarship to financially assist female students in the college's service region.
The impact of her efforts for Virginia Western continue to be felt as she tirelessly supports the Educational Foundation in its day-to-day fundraising and advocacy initiatives. Donna is a past president of the Educational Foundation having served in that position in 2006 and 2007. She was also instrumental in establishing the College's first Alumni Association in 2004 and served as the first Alumni Council chair until 2006. In 2008 she was awarded the Chancellor's Award for Leadership in Philanthropy by the Virginia Community College System.
2007 - Dr. Kent A. Murphy
Dr. Kent Murphy began his educational endeavors at Virginia Western Community College, where he completed 61 credit hours before transferring to Virginia Tech, earning his bachelors, masters and doctoral degrees and is now Founder, CEO, and Chairman of Luna Innovations Incorporated, a publicly traded company on the NASDAQ. Luna Innovations develops and manufactures new-generation products for the healthcare, telecommunications, energy and defense markets. Through its disciplined commercialization business model, Luna has become a recognized leader in transitioning science to solutions. Luna is a two-time Tibbett's award winner, the 2005 recipient of the Governor's Technology Award for Entrepreneurship, and the 2007 Roanoke Regional Chamber of Commerce Small Business of the Year.
Dr. Murphy is formerly a tenured professor in Virginia Tech's Bradley Department of Engineering and has over 35 patents which have generated hundreds of millions of dollars in product revenue. In 2001, he was named Virginia SBIR Entrepreneur of the Year, and in 2004 was recognized by the Governor and Science Museum of Virginia as Virginia's Outstanding Industrialist of the Year. Dr. Murphy is a founding member of the Virginia Research and Technology Advisory Commission, appointed by the Governor, and continues to serve today. He is also a member of the NVTC Board of Directors, Greater Washington Board of Trade Potomac Tech Task Force, the Governor's Office Productivity Advisory Committee, and the SBIR Steering Committee in association with the National Research Council and the National Academies. In May of 2003, he gave testimony at the Full Committee Hearing of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation on S.189, the 21st Century Nanotechnology Research and Development Act, a $3.4 billion nano technology funding bill. At a reception honoring the recipients on November 15, Dr. Murphy commented, "If it were not for Virginia Western, I would not be here in front of you today or have founded a company that has provided over 300 jobs for the Roanoke Valley and Southwest Virginia."
2007 - Charlotte C. Tyson '84
Mrs. Charlotte C. Tyson is a 1984 graduate with her Associates of Science degree in Nursing from Virginia Western Community College. She went on to earn her Bachelor's of Science Degree in Nursing from the Medical College of Virginia and a Master's of Healthcare Administration from Pfeiffer University. She has been Lewis-Gale Medical Center's Chief Operating Officer since October, 2005, and is currently serving as the hospital's Interim CEO. As a 521-bed tertiary facility, Lewis-Gale Medical Center has provided state-of-the art medical care for residents of the Roanoke Valley and Southwest Virginia for nearly 100 years and played an instrumental role in Virginia Western's first major gifts campaign by giving the largest gift in the history of the college, $1.5 million dollars.
Prior to that time, Mrs. Tyson was the hospital's Chief Nursing Officer, Quality Management Director, and Director of Oncology/Medical Surgery Departments. She serves on the Board of Directors of Project Access of the Roanoke Valley and is professionally associated with the American College of HealthCare Executives, the American Organization of Nurse Executives, and the American Society of Health Care Risk Managers. She was featured in 2006 in a Virginia Western Educational Foundation billboard campaign providing a "you can do it too" encouragement to our region's youth. At a reception honoring the recipients, Mrs. Tyson commented, "I am so proud to be a graduate of this institution which provides such a positive impact on our region."
2006 - John B. Williamson, III '75
John B. Williamson, III was announced as the first recipient of the 2006 Distinguished Alumni Award at Virginia Western's 40th Anniversary Celebration at The Hotel Roanoke on January 17. A 1975 graduate of Virginia Western in Business Administration, John went on to earn his B.S. from Virginia Commonwealth University and his M.B.A. from The College of William & Mary. John has held numerous positions in both the public and private sectors including Assistant County Administrator for Nelson County, County Administrator for both Nelson and Botetourt County, and is currently Chairman, President & CEO of RGC Resources, Inc. In addition, John has held many positions on local and regional boards including President of The Arts Council of the Blue Ridge, Chairman of the Roanoke Valley Chamber of Commerce, and President of the Virginia Western Educational Foundation. John also spearheaded Virginia Western's first major gifts campaign which raised $4 million dollars to support key initiatives of the college. As the commencement speaker for Virginia Western in 2000, he told the graduates "Had it not been for Virginia Western, I might not have ever started on my college education." He echoed those thoughts in his acceptance speech when he dedicated his Distinguished Alumni Award to the faculty at Virginia Western for their commitment to student success.