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2012 News Releases

Student center named for alumna in recognition of record gift of $4 million

September 24, 2012

Elsie Stossel Upchurch
Elsie Stossel Upchurch

Longwood University's future student center has been named for an alumna whose $4 million commitment to the project is the largest capital gift in the university's history.

The naming of the Norman H. and Elsie Stossel Upchurch University Center, approved Sept. 15 by the university's Board of Visitors, recognizes a 1943 graduate and her late husband. Mrs. Upchurch, a retired teacher and guidance counselor who lives in Front Royal, made the commitment after her husband died last year.

"This is the largest single commitment to any one project and clearly the largest commitment to a Longwood capital project," said H. Franklin Grant, longtime Longwood fundraiser and associate vice president for university advancement. "Mrs. Upchurch's commitment raises the bar for Longwood capital projects and helps ensure that we no longer have the oldest student center among Virginia public colleges. Elsie is a true treasure."

Upchurch initially made a $1 million commitment to the student center in August 2011, six months after the death of her husband, retired president of the Richmond, Fredericksburg and Potomac Railroad Credit Union. In May 2012, she increased the commitment to $4 million.

A new student center is the top priority among building projects in Longwood's current capital campaign, which will conclude June 30, 2013, one year prior to the university's 175th anniversary year. Construction is expected to begin in late 2014 or early 2015. It will be built on the site of the Cunningham Residence Halls, which will be razed. Renovating Cunningham would be cost-prohibitive. Estimated cost of the Upchurch Center is $30 million.

"A new university center is absolutely vital to the ongoing success of our students," said Interim President Marge Connelly. "This facility will not only provide students with an inviting and up-to-date space in which they can study and socialize, it will also provide a home and meeting space for many of our clubs and student organizations. I am so appreciative of Mrs. Upchurch's outstanding gift, and it has been very clear to me in our conversations that she still feels deeply for Longwood and fully understands the continued importance of developing citizen leaders."

Upchurch was called a "true representative of the Longwood citizen leader" in a resolution also approved by the Board of Visitors. As a Longwood student-she arrived at what was then the Farmville State Teachers College in the school's 100th anniversary year-she was president of the Dramatic Club and a member of Sigma Sigma Sigma sorority and Who's Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges. She is a former president of the Longwood Alumni Association (1957-59).

After graduating from Longwood with a B.A. in English, Upchurch taught in Ashland for one year and for several years at a Richmond junior high school. She earned a master's degree in guidance from Columbia University in 1948 and became a guidance counselor for the Richmond schools, working at Westhampton Junior High, where she spent most of her career, and also Chandler and then Binford middle schools before retiring in 1983.

During her career, Upchurch was active in numerous professional organizations in the Richmond area. She was president of the Junior High Teachers Association, the League of Richmond Teachers, the Virginia Education Association's District C and the local chapter of Delta Kappa Gamma, an honorary society for women educators.

Upchurch also is active in Front Royal, her hometown, to which she returned after retiring. She is a former president of the Garden Club of Warren County, and she is the organist and choir director at Rockland Community Church. She is a lifelong member and elder at Front Royal Presbyterian Church, where she chairs the Christian Fellowship Committee. She likes to travel and has visited every continent except Antarctica.

Working with Grant, Susan Soza of McLean, a 1962 Longwood alumna who is a member of the campaign steering committee and at the time was a member of the Board of Visitors, was "very instrumental" in securing Upchurch's support for the center, Grant said. Soza also has made a significant gift to the Upchurch Center.