Virginia Western Community College and the Roanoke Higher Education Center hosted a grand opening for the newly expanded Claude Moore Educational Complex in the historic Gainsboro Neighborhood of downtown Roanoke on Wednesday. The $6-million-plus expansion created more than 8,000 square feet of state-of-the-art kitchen and academic space for the college’s Al Pollard Culinary Arts Program.

“We are devoted to invigorating this community and our local economy, and education is the key to making everything happen,” said Dr. Robert H. Sandel, President of Virginia Western Community College. “I am amazed that in just over 10 years we have grown from one faculty chef in the back of a trailer to this top-notch facility with a nationally accredited program that has supported countless students’ culinary dreams.”

To view the grand opening ceremony, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bd3M8ny0ze4.

Currently, more than 330 students takes classes in Virginia Western’s culinary arts program, which offers a two-year associate’s degree as well as industry certifications. Since 2013, the Virginia Western Educational Foundation has awarded more than 150 full culinary scholarships, thanks to the support of the Al Pollard Memorial Foundation. Al Pollard was a Roanoke restaurateur behind Corned Beef & Co., Frankie Rowland’s and 419 West who died suddenly in 2006.

“Al always had a gleam in his eye when he was helping others, and now I see that gleam in the eye of every chef and every culinary student at this college,” said C.J. King, the Pollard Foundation’s board chair. “We are thrilled to continue to support these students with a $50,000 donation today.”

The gift will support scholarship and equipment in the Claude Moore Complex, which more than doubled the space for the College’s popular culinary program. Students began classes in the new space in August when fall semester started. In addition to the three new kitchens, students have also gotten a taste of local history with photos and architectural designs devoted to the Gainsboro community’s history.

“This is a true and valuable partnership between Virginia Western, the Roanoke Higher Education Center, Roanoke and the Gainsboro Community,” said State Senator John Edwards. “This new expansion allows us to grow and celebrate this vibrant area’s history.”

Roanoke City Mayor Sherman Lea recognized the historic nature of the grand opening and lauded the collaborative efforts of the partners. “I’m so appreciative of the work of Virginia Western and what Dr. Sandel is doing in this community. We would not be where we are today without his commitment and dedication.”

At the ceremony, Dr. Sandel unveiled a portrait of Deborah Yancey, the former Dean of Virginia Western’s School of Business, Technology and Trades. Yancey died in August 2017 after more than 20 years as a student, faculty member and administrator at Virginia Western. Her integral role in the expansion of the Claude Moore Educational Complex will forever be recognized by the portrait.

Following the grand opening ceremony, members of the community were provided tours of the kitchens and were treated to a wide-range of heavy hors d’oeuvres and pastries created by culinary students that morning.

“This facility is what our community needs and what our students deserve. It will make a tremendous contribution to our local economy,” said Dr. Kay Dunkley, Executive Director of the Roanoke Higher Education Center. “This has been a community of friends and partners intent on supporting the region’s workforce development.”