Richmond foundations support Suter Science renovation

As co-directors of The Burford Leimenstoll Foundation, wealth management expert W. Bates Chappell (left) and attorney Bruce L. Mertens strive to uphold the wishes and priorities expressed by its founder, Betty Sams Christian.

Foundations based in central Virginia will be contributing a combined total of $300,000, assuming that matching funds are raised in some cases, toward renovating EMU’s Suter Science Center.

“The support of respected foundations in the Commonwealth of Virginia testifies to the Suter Science Center’s 45 years of preparing graduates who proceed to become service-oriented professionals in health care and other scientific disciplines,” said EMU President Loren Swartzendruber. “It is our goal to continue meeting critical needs throughout the Commonwealth and beyond by cultivating ‘servant-leaders.’”

The Burford Leimenstoll Foundation is an example of one foundation supporting the upgrading of the Suter Science Center. This foundation typically supports social welfare efforts, as well as cultural and educational initiatives, ranging from the Frontier Culture Museum near Staunton to the International Emerging Leadership program of Collegiate School in Richmond.

The Burford Leimenstoll Foundation also confers some grants for initiatives in health and higher education, as exemplified by its endowed sponsorship of the Betty Sams Christian Child Health Advocacy Program at the University of Virginia Children’s Hospital.

This foundation was founded in 1991 by Betty Sams Christian, nine years into her 21-year leadership of the Central Coca-Cola Bottling Company, overseeing franchises in Virginia, Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. By the time she retired from being president and CEO in 2003, her company was the ninth-largest independent Coke bottler in the United States.

Christian was born Staunton, the city immediately south of Harrisonburg on I-81, and earned her bachelor’s degree further south in the Shenandoah Valley at what is now Hollins University. After majoring in a challenging scientific field (physics), Christian pursued her concern for people’s well-being by going to New York City to earn a master’s of social work degree at Columbia University.

Today her foundation is co-directed by W. Bates Chappell, managing director of Kanawha Capital in Richmond (Va.), where he specializes in wealth preservation and investment management, and by Bruce L. Mertens, a partner in the Richmond branch of the 70-attorney firm Sands Anderson PC, where he practices estate planning and administration.

“We have continued to support the charities to which the founder [of the Burford Leimenstoll Foundation] made grants in her lifetime,” Chappell told the Crossroads editor. Mertens nodded his agreement with these words, adding, “Betty was very concerned about social issues and the welfare of people.”

Before her death in 2006, Christian chose to contribute, through her foundation, to EMU’s annual fund, known as the University Fund. Chappell and Mertens therefore feel confident that she would wish them to continue supporting efforts by EMU to develop “servant-leaders” in healthcare, education, social work, counseling and other fields beneficial to humankind.

Other foundations supporting this capital campaign through challenge grants – in which they pledge to match funds in a specific ratio contributed by private donors – include The Mary Morton Parsons Foundation and The Robert G. Cabell III and Maude Morgan Cabell Foundation, both headquartered in Richmond. “We want to help EMU leverage the private funds they must raise to complete this capital project,” explained the executive director of one foundation.

 – Bonnie Price Lofton

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