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Spring 2008

New Science Center Named in Honor of John and Karen Chichester

Dennis Sercombe Editor

Chichester Science Center The New Chichester Science Center

Longwood University’s science center has been named for one of Virginia’s most prominent legislators and his wife, an alumna who is a former president of the Longwood University Foundation Board.

The John H. and Karen Williams Chichester Science Center was officially dedicated on December 7, 2007 during a ceremony in the building’s first floor lobby. John Chichester was president pro tem of the Virginia Senate. Karen is a 1974 Longwood graduate who served on the Longwood Foundation Board for 12 years. Guests for the event included students, current and former faculty members, legislators, and friends.

"The naming of the Science Center for the Chichesters is noteworthy because both of these individuals have contributed to Longwood’s progress in innumerable ways from legislative support to personal dedication," said Longwood President Patricia Cormier. "It is an honor and a privilege for the university to recognize their devotion to the Commonwealth and higher education in this manner. Their legacy at Longwood will live forever."

Speakers for the event were President Cormier; Marge Connelly, rector of Longwood’s Board of Visitors; Dr. Walter Witschey, professor of anthropology and science education; and Dr. Charles Ross, dean of the Cook-Cole College of Arts and Sciences.

"From the basement to the top floor, where a new greenhouse is located, this building is terrific," said Connelly.  "I won’t use the term ‘state-of-the-art,’ because that’s overused these days. Let’s just say it’s ‘state-of-the-science.’ And, since we are preparing the leaders of tomorrow, we expect nothing less for our students."

Longwood University’s Board of Visitors approved the naming in June 2007. The building, located at the corner of Griffin Boulevard and High Street, was opened on December 6, 2005.

John Chichester (R-28th, Retired), who chaired the Senate Finance Committee, was instrumental over the years in helping Longwood obtain funding for various projects. He had been a "champion of higher education" who "stood firmly by Longwood in the aftermath of the Great Fire of 2001, carefully stewarding the process for rebuilding our beloved Rotunda, and supported enthusiastically Longwood’s request for funding a long-overdue new science center," according to a resolution that accompanied the naming.

Karen Chichester was a director of the Longwood Foundation, which manages the university’s private funds, from 1994 to 2000 and again from 2001 until last spring. She was president from 1996 to 2000. She was a "highly effective" president during "some of (the Foundation’s) most challenging times," says the Board of Visitors resolution.

After earning a B.S. in math at Longwood, she taught for three years at Covington High School, from which she graduated, then moved to Richmond and worked in the marketing department of an insurance company for nearly seven years. She and John were married in 1983, and she worked from then until 2002 in the small, family-owned insurance agency in Fredericksburg of which he was president.