Advocate for Virginia’s private colleges to retire

Published: Jul. 28, 2022 at 7:17 PM EDT
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FERRUM, Va. (WDBJ) - For the last 40 years, Robert Lambeth has been a leading advocate for Virginia’s private colleges and universities. This week, the organization he leads announced his plan to retire.

Lambeth joined the Council of Independent Colleges in Virginia in 1983. The organization now represents 27 schools, and Lambeth says they’ve learned they are stronger when they work together.

Thursday afternoon, Ferrum College Admissions Counselor Katelyn Moore was leading a tour of the campus for prospective students and their parents. This is Virginia Private College Week, and Ferrum is one of more than 20 schools holding open houses and other events. It’s just one way the schools work together.

“There are certainly things that individual colleges must do alone, but we’ve found over the years that when colleges, especially smaller colleges work together, that sometimes they can get a better result,” Lambeth told WDBJ7 in an interview.

Lambeth has championed Virginia’s Tuition Assistance Grants. Next year they will provide $5,000 for each full-time Virginia student attending a private college in the state.

He’s helped to develop health insurance and retirement programs that many of the schools offer their employees.

Dr. David Johns is the President of Ferrum College.

“Sometimes our voices are not quite as loud as the others, but when we bind together that voice is magnified, amplified,“ Johns said in an interview. “That’s been good in helping us get some attention in Richmond, which we have needed and all benefitted from, our students have benefitted from.”

And despite recent challenges, including the pandemic, Lambeth said he believes Virginia’s private colleges and universities remain on solid ground.

“Our institutions, most of them have been around for over 100 years,” Lambeth said. “We have excellent presidents, so they have been able to rise to the occasion. Certainly the pandemic was a huge challenge to our institutions, and we’ve weathered the storm, and now bouncing back and transitioning back to a more normal situation.”

The Council of Independent Colleges in Virginia has an office in Richmond, and a substantial presence in Bedford County where Lambeth lives. He says it will be up to his successor to decide the future of the organization in those locations.

Lambeth isn’t leaving right away. He plans to stay on until the Council names his successor.

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