$1.5M pledge jump-starts fundraiser for new BSC residence hall

George Thwaites, Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Shott Challenge

The Hugh I. Shott Foundation has been a big supporter of Bluefield State College for a long time.

If what was announced Thursday night comes to full fruition, no contributing entity will have ever been bigger.

During Thursday night’s “An Evening with Bluefield State” fundraiser dinner at Fincastle on the Mountain, Bluefield State President Marsha Krotseng announced that the Shott Foundation had pledged $1.5 million toward the construction of a new residence hall on campus — contingent upon a half-million match by Bluefield State.

“Bluefield State is very grateful to the Shott Foundation for this extraordinary gift. It is the largest pledge from a single entity and will be the largest gift in Bluefield State’s 112 year history,” Krotseng told the assembled alumni, coaches, college officials and supporters at the event.

“This is a transformational gift and will make an incredible difference to the campus, our students and our local communities. It will move us toward a vibrant future. I look forward to working with our Bluefield State family and friends to meet — and even surpass — the challenge.”

Krotseng said the college administration will formally mobilize today to reply the Shott Foundation’s $500,000 fund raising challenge.  Bluefield State Director of Institutional Advancement Betty Carroll is assembling a steering committee that will help advance the fund raising efforts, she said.

“Together Bluefield State and the Shott Foundation are going to raise $2 million toward the new residence hall,” said Krotseng. “This is a very significant task and a significant amount of money. But I’m convinced that we can do it as all pull together. I think it’s pretty amazing that they’ll match it 3-to-1.”

Currently, some student housing for Bluefield State is available at MountainView Student Residence and Conference Center — a converted former Holiday Inn — which is located several miles off campus on Cumberland Road in Bluefield. There hasn’t been student housing on the Bluefield State campus since 1969.  The target date for completing the new campus residence hall is 2019.

“If this process can move forward quickly ... if we move the fundraising forward, the faster that goes, the more quickly we’ll be able to get approval in some respects,” Krotseng said. “The funds that we raise through (the Shott Foundation challenge) will certainly help decrease the amount of money we’ll be looking for from other sources,” she said.

 The new facility envisioned by the administration will be constructed on the footprint of the vintage BSC tennis courts, which are located on the lowest level of the steeply climbing mountainside campus.

 The co-educational dormitory is expected to house roughly 140 students. Krotseng said the cost of a new residence hall and the accompanying parking structure is projected to total approximately $26 million.  In addition to providing on-campus housing, she said the structure would raise the area up and significantly transform the contours of the central campus, providing a main campus quadrangle where students, faculty and staff can gather.

The college president noted that a preliminary loan application with the United States Department of Agriculture is currently under review. Once Bluefield State gets the go-ahead from the USDA, the college expects to work with several other federal partners that can help with funding. The college will also require approval from its Board of Governors as well the Higher Education Policy Commission in Charleston. 

Krotseng said that the college’s effort to build its campus life does not mean an abandonment of the diverse types of student populations who attend Bluefield State, including non-traditional students, commuter students and, going forward, online students.

“As we grow the college we need to look at a variety of different pathways to do that. So a residence hall is a major one. But we’ll continue working with our other types of students,” she said.

Krotseng foresees that the return of on-campus residency won’t merely be an advancement for Bluefield State. It will also be a cultural boost and potential economic enhancement for the wider downtown Bluefield community.

“This isn’t just about the college. This is about the City of Bluefield. We’re just right across the bridge from downtown,” Krotseng said. “Having a nucleus of students right across from downtown brings some life and vibrancy to the city as well. That’s what we want to have. That good give and take ... a great partnership.”