The Virginia Western Community College Educational Foundation has established a new scholarship fund, The Richard J. Gaynor Memorial Scholarship, in honor of Richard (Rich) Gaynor, a professor of mental health technology from Salem who loyally served the College for 33 years and passed away Feb. 12.

Created through an initial gift of $10,000 by family members, the Gaynor scholarship will provide assistance for tuition, books and other related expenses to students enrolled in at least 12 credits per semester in a program of study with a cumulative 2.5 grade point average. Students may apply beginning March 2 for fall 2015 scholarships at virginiawestern.edu/foundation/scholarship.

Gaynor joined the faculty at Virginia Western in September 1977. During his time at the College he served as the assistant dean for the Social Sciences division and as the program head for the Human Services program. He taught a variety of classes for that program, and was named Virginia Western’s Faculty Marshal for 2011, retiring that same year.

Gaynor “truly was the heart of the Human Services program for the many years that he served the program and its students,” said Dr. Annette Chamberlin, program head for Social Sciences. “His students did not just respect him, they adored him, and they would do anything to earn his respect in return.  It was a sad day for the College when he retired, and it is an even sadder day today to know that we have lost one of the most brilliant professors we have ever had in Human Services.”

Gaynor received his bachelor’s in psychology from Christopher Newport College, his master’s in clinical psychology from Radford University, and his master’s in educational counseling from Radford University.

In 1993, Gaynor was honored with the Chancellor’s Commonwealth Professor award. This award is designed to recognize teaching excellence and to provide the recipient with the opportunity to pursue a special project. He used this award to establish a partnership with Radford University to offer a bachelor’s of social work on the Virginia Western campus.

Dr. Jim Sargent, former dean of Health and Human Services and Gaynor’s supervisor and colleague, praised Gaynor as “an innovator, always working to integrate technology into the classroom as well as to improve his teaching skills.

“Roanoke Valley employers prized students from Virginia Western’s Health and Human Services program over those graduating from four-year colleges and universities,” Sargent said. “That is a fine testament to Rich Gaynor, the quality of his teaching, his advising and counseling of students, and his fellow faculty members.”

In addition to dedication to his family and his work at Virginia Western, Gaynor maintained a private counseling service, helped start two free medical clinics, and enjoyed camping, hiking, golf and photography.

Gaynor’s colleagues were also his golfing buddies, and touted his exploits on the golf course.

Dr. Gary Dent, professor of history, said Gaynor “was an excellent mentor, always on the cutting edge of technology.  The times and memories I will always treasure, however, are those as friend and golf partner.

“Once, when I was just starting out in golf, Rich hit his ball into a sand trap,” Dent recalled.  “He told me this would be an excellent opportunity to show me how to get out of the sand and onto the green.  He unintentionally hit his ball out of the trap all the way over the green and into the trap on the other side.  He then headed over to his ball and hit it back into the same trap he was in originally. I told him, ‘I think I am getting the idea.’  We laughed about that many times.”

Donations can be mailed to The Richard J. Gaynor Memorial Scholarship, c/o VWCC Education Foundation Inc., 3093 Colonial Ave., Roanoke, VA 24015. To contribute online, visit http://goo.gl/DYIMoc. For more information, contact the Educational Foundation at (540) 857-6281.

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