BLACKSBURG, Va., April 15, 2006 – At a ceremony today held in the Inn at Virginia Tech’s Latham Ballroom, Virginia Tech President Charles W. Steger announced a $5 million gift to the university from William and Elizabeth Latham of Haymarket, Va. The gift will be used to establish an endowed fund to support academic research in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
In recognition of this gift and their life-long commitment to service and philanthropy to the university, the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors unanimously approved the naming of the agriculture and natural resources research building as the William C. and Elizabeth H. Latham Agriculture and Natural Resources Building.
“This gift will provide researchers in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences with laboratory equipment, undergraduate research stipends, graduate student fellowships, and other forms of support that are critically needed to advance the pursuit of new knowledge and new discoveries,” said Steger. “Virginia Tech as we know it today—poised to transform lives in the future—exists primarily through the generous support of benefactors like Bill and Betty Latham.”
The 85,000 square foot, $24.5 million facility, located on the Blacksburg campus between Cheatham and Smyth Halls, was built using funds made possible through the Virginia General Assembly.
“Latham Hall will house state-of-the-art laboratory facilities that will expand groundbreaking research programs in agriculture and life sciences, natural resources, and the environment,” said Sharron Quisenberry, dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. “The facility will serve as a hub of plant science research that will enhance research productivity, aid in recruitment of and retention of world-class faculty, and provide a beneficial environment to train a future workforce in agriculture and other life sciences.”
A 1955 graduate of Virginia Tech, Bill Latham returned home to Haymarket to operate Waterloo Farm, a 700- acre dairy and general farm where Bill and Betty raised four children. Betty Latham, a native of Radford, Va., graduated from New York University. In 1973, The Lathams founded Budget Motels, Inc., which currently owns and operates one Comfort Inn and nine Days Inns.
Bill Latham was appointed by governors Charles Robb and James Gilmore to serve two terms on the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors, where he chaired the Building and Grounds Committee and was also appointed vice rector. He remains an active member of the William Preston Society (former board of visitor members); served on the National Leadership Campaign Committee for the university’s Alumni and Conference Center Campaign; and filled leadership roles in Virginia Tech’s two earlier capital campaigns.
Bill and Betty also currently serve as co-chairs of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Campaign Steering Committee.
In 1996, Bill was awarded the Alumni Distinguished Service Award in recognition of his dedication to Virginia Tech.
In addition to his many contributions to Virginia Tech, Bill remains involved with his community where he was a member of the board of directors of the Commonwealth Savings and Loan Association in Manassas, Va., as well as a charter member of the Bull Run Lions Club.
The Lathams have made several other significant contributions to Virginia Tech, including those to enhance the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, the livestock teaching arena, and to the Northern Virginia 4-H Center. They have provided funds for the William C. and Elizabeth H. Latham Histopathology Laboratory in the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine Teaching Hospital, and established the William C. and Elizabeth H. Latham Scholar-in-Residence Endowment for the Virginia Center for Civil War Studies. The university has also benefited from their support to the alumni and conference center, to WVTF-FM public radio, and to athletic programs and scholarships for student athletes.
The dedication of Latham Hall is scheduled for September.
Ranked 11th in agricultural research expenditures by the National Science Foundation, Virginia Tech’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences offers students the opportunity to learn from some of the world’s leading agricultural scientists. The college’s comprehensive curriculum gives students a balanced education that ranges from food and fiber production to economics to human health. The college is a national leader in incorporating technology, biotechnology, computer applications, and other recent scientific advances into its teaching program.