As a chilly breeze blew cool air off nearby Chesapeake Bay on Wednesday, October 6, state and local dignitaries gathered to honor the legacy of a visionary governor whose attention “Soft but compelling” on environmental issues sparked a 40-year process of improving this resulting body of water.
Governor Ralph Northam joined Longwood President W. Taylor Reveley IV to dedicate the Gerald L. Baliles Center for Environmental Education in Hull Springs, a historic 662-acre property on the Northern Neck that houses research and education projects in progress for Longwood students. .
“The Baliles Center for Environmental Education”, Hon. John Daniel II, who served as the Commonwealth’s first secretary for natural resources under Baliles and is now president of the Longwood University Real Estate Foundation, said: “is an opportunity for scholarship, exploration, growth and maturation students as they become the citizen leaders of tomorrow.
The property, which was bequeathed to Longwood in 1999 by alumnus Mary Farley Ames Lee ’38, has been a center of environmental research and activity for more than two decades. Today, that research has been bolstered by the opening of a new $ 1.2 million research lab on the Westmoreland County property.
“I cannot imagine a more fitting tribute to Governor Jerry Baliles than to name this facility after his heritage,” said Northam. “When I visit the Bay, I see that Jerry’s efforts are paying off. It’s another big day for Virginia.
A ceremony sometimes tearful, sometimes joyful, was punctuated with memories of the former governor, who served from 1986 to 1990.
“Like Joan of Arc, Longwood’s protective hero, Jerry Baliles was bold and fearless,” said Longwood rector Pia Trigiani, who read the resolution passed by the Visitors Council to name the former governor’s property. . “He focused on his three Es: education, environment and economic development. This place is a testament to those ideas.
Reveley, who viewed Baliles as a mentor and worked closely with him at the Miller Center at the University of Virginia, recognized the governor’s family members who were in attendance – including his wife, the former first lady of Virginia. , Jeannie – often quoting a phrase Baliles used: “Sounds like a week old home.”
“It was the shores and waters of the Chesapeake that gave it freedom and ease,” Reveley said. “May we bear his name well here. “
After the ceremony, visitors toured the immaculate $ 1.2 million research lab. Covering 3,000 square feet of space at the Baliles Center, it will serve as a home for long-term research projects like the Longwood Environmental Observatory, a network of air, water and soil sensors that provides critical data for multidisciplinary student research. Dr Dina Leech, a limnologist and professor of biology at Longwood, answered questions about ongoing water quality research that brings her students to the Baliles Center every month for swabs and tests. This work, she said, will expand with the capabilities of the new environmental research facility and property infrastructure.