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Richard and Leslie Gilliam Foundation funds UVa-Wise Health and Wellness Center

Richard and Leslie Gilliam, natives of Southwest Virginia, recently pledged $8.3 million dollars for a new health and wellness center and renovations to Greear Gymnasium to house the Healthy Appalachia Institute at The University of Virginia’s College at Wise.

Richard, a native of Wise, is a 1974 graduate of UVa- Wise (formerly Clinch Valley College), and Leslie is from Jonesville, Virginia. Their generous gift, the largest in the history of the school, will provide both a new addition to its fitness center and the renovation of 5,833 square feet of the Fred B. Greear Gymnasium.

The health and wellness center and improvements to Greear Gymnasium will leverage the work of the Healthy Appalachia Institute, helping thousands of students and residents of Southwest Virginia embrace a healthier lifestyle.

“The strong commitment that Richard and Leslie Gilliam have shown to UVa-Wise and Southwest Virginia will have a tremendous impact on the health of our students and the residents of our region,” Chancellor David J. Prior said.

The gift to UVa-Wise is one example of how Richard and Leslie Gilliam are supporting projects to improve the quality of life in the coalfield region. Richard was founder and CEO of Cumberland Resources, one of the region’s top coal companies, which was purchased by Massey Energy in April 2010. For many years Richard and Leslie have been supporters of Southwest Virginia communities and continue to believe passionately about giving back to the region. The Gilliams agreed to the announcement of this gift in the hope that others who have benefited from natural resource businesses in the region might also consider a gift.

“My wife Leslie and I are delighted to help provide UVa-Wise with new facilities for fitness,” Richard Gilliam said. “Our goal is to provide for UVa-Wise in a way that will assist the school in attracting and retaining students and to support and encourage a healthy lifestyle for students.”

Construction of the Health and Wellness Center will add 11,000 square feet to the current fitness facility. The center will house a new exercise area, a multipurpose room for yoga, Pilates, dance and other activities, two conference rooms for individual and group health advising and instruction, and locker rooms.

The renovation to portions of Greear Gymnasium will feature a new entry and refurbished restrooms and locker rooms. The project will provide excellent space for group exercise and intramural activities.

“Leslie and I believe that exercise and healthy habits are essential to a quality life,” Gilliam said. “We hope that students and others throughout the area will be impacted by the Healthy Appalachia Institute as the organization works to improve the health and well being of families across Southwest Virginia.”

The Healthy Appalachia Institute, a partnership between UVa-Wise and the UVa Health System, was created to improve the health, education, environment and prosperity for residents of central Appalachia.