The Virginia Western Community College Educational Foundation has awarded its first Endowed Teaching Chair to Cristin Barrett, an assistant professor of mathematics at Virginia Western Community College.

Barrett is the first recipient of the Donald G. Smith Endowed Teaching Chair, an honor named for Don Smith, the retired head of Roanoke Electric Steel and a Director Emeriti of the Educational Foundation. Steel Dynamics Inc., formerly Roanoke Electric Steel, established the Chair in 2006 with a $100,000 gift to honor Smith’s longtime leadership. Smith was president of Roanoke Steel from 1985 to 2004 and worked for the company 49 years.

“I am deeply honored regarding this endowment for Virginia Western by Steel Dynamics,” Smith said. “Virginia Western continues to play a major role in our region and beyond in developing our future leaders. I am excited to learn that Professor Barrett will be the first recipient.”

The Endowed Teaching Chair is intended to honor an outstanding instructor of business administration-related coursework at Virginia Western. The honored teacher may use the funds to enhance the quality of his or her curriculum, facilities or instruction in any way he or she deems necessary. Barrett plans to lead a community lecture series in 2016 in which local business leaders discuss real-world applications of college-level math.

“So often, I’ve heard my students ask, ‘Why do I have to know this?’ ” Barrett said. “I hope our guest speakers make the connection between the math they learned in the classroom and the success they achieved in their careers.”

Barrett, a Troutville resident, grew up in Tazewell, Va., and received her bachelor’s degree in mathematics and her master’s degree in mathematics education, both from Virginia Tech. In 2004, she began teaching math at Hidden Valley High School in Roanoke. While there, she also taught as an adjunct math instructor for Virginia Western. In 2007, Barrett was hired as a full-time faculty member of the College. She has taught developmental mathematics, statistics, pre-calculus and calculus and also has served as program head of developmental mathematics.

The selection of Cristin Barrett “could not have been more appropriate, as every aspect of our steel operation — from sales pricing, chemistry calculations, product design, tolerances and weights to invoicing and accounting — incorporates components of math,” said T. Joe Crawford, vice president and general manager of Steel Dynamics. “There is no other discipline that has more of an impact on the operation of our business.”