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Class of 2014 Visits The Valley

The Class of 2014 recently returned from our Valley Session from our base at the grand Hotel Roanoke in The Star City, and many thanks go out to the leadership of our session's co-chairs, Dr. Susan Short, Assoc. V.P. for Engagement, Va. Tech and LEAD VIRGINIA Class of 2013, and Rick Pevarski, President and CEO of Va. Utility Protection Services, Inc and LEAD VIRGINIA Class of 2011. Susan and Rick did a super job of providing our class with an overview of a region where two halves of a valley are working to become one. I think all in our class walked away impressed with the sense of urgency The Valley region seems to have around pursuing its future and harnessing it to improve the lives of its residents. From the fields of advanced medical research to the significant impact Virginia Tech has on both the economy and culture of the region, The Valley is a vital contributor to our state's success.

Our first day's highlight had to be our visit to The Jefferson Center, a former antiquated high school that was bought by local supporters of the arts and converted into a leading-edge community venue for teaching, playing and enjoying music. Our tour was led by Cyrus Pace, musician, educator, visionary, and Executive Director, and what the Center has done to bring music education to the children of the Roanoke community is inspiring. Through the Center's Music Lab they host famous musical acts from around the world, just like so many other communities around the country. But, what really sets the Jefferson Center apart is Cyrus and his team actually require the touring musicians to spend time teaching and interacting with students of The Music Lab. The impact of having someone like Pat Metheny actually talk about his music and teach students his "chops" can be transformational to a child who has never travelled outside of the region. It is easy to see how The Jefferson Center is creating a model for arts education for the future.

 Friday the class learned just how significant a role our state's land grant university plays in shaping the future of the Valley, the state, and beyond. Starting with a tour of the Virginia Smart Road to include a walk inside the second tallest bridge in the state, we learned how the research conducted at the Va. Tech Transportation Institute is being applied to make the cars and trucks we drive today and tomorrow safer - and less driver dependent! Our day at Va. Tech continued with a tour of the Va. Tech Corporate Research Center and a great panel discussion on Tech's increasing focus on technology start-ups and the economic promise they hold for the region. Our class was then treated to a discussion on the financial impact Va. Tech athletics has on the region led by Va. Tech Athletic Director Whit Babcock. Suffice it to say large-scale football and basketball programs are key contributors to the university's athletic budget. However, perhaps the most impactful, literally and figuratively, part of the presentation was offered by Dr. Stefan Duma, head of the Va. Tech/Wake Forest School of Biomedical Engineering and Sciences. Dr. Duma discussed the ground-breaking work his team has done around concussion research and prevention, and how their findings are shaping the game of football world-wide.

After a wonderful tour of the new Moss Arts Center at Virginia Tech and the opportunity to meet noted artist Pat Buckley Moss, the highlight of the session for me came with our last stop at Va. Tech Carilion School of Medicine & Research Center. There we got to meet Dr. Michael Friedlander, the school's Founding Executive Director and clearly one of our state's biggest assets. Dr. Friedlander described for us how their research center in the Roanoke Valley had attracted many of the country's leading researchers in the field of neurological research and how their work was advancing the cause for major medical cures to some of the world's most challenging maladies. I challenge anyone to find a more compelling, passionate, and more learned subject-matter leader than Dr. Friedlander. He is a true star of The Star City.

 The Valley is clearly a region intent on transforming its economy, and its accomplishments in the areas of arts and science is undeniable. How the Roanoke Valley and the New River Valley work together to build their future will determine how successful the region is with its transformation.

- Contributed by John Hopper, Richmond Market Executive & Senior Vice President of Private Client Services, First Tennessee Bank, Class of 2014.

LEAD VIRGINIA greatly appreciates Dr. Susan Short, '13, Vice President for Engagement at Virginia Tech, and Rick Pevarski, '11, President & CEO of Virginia Utility Protection Services, for putting together an inspiring session. We also wish to thank our generous sponsors and in-kind contributors of this session: Appalachian Power, Cox Communications, Virginia Tech, Carilion Clinic, COTA (Virginia Tech's Center for Organizational and Technological Advancement), and Virginia Utility Protection Services.