Baliles Center for Environmental Education dedicated

Published 6:00 am Wednesday, October 27, 2021

As a cool wind blew fresh air off the nearby Chesapeake Bay on Wednesday, Oct. 6, state and local dignitaries gathered to honor the legacy of a visionary governor whose “gentle yet persuasive” focus on environmental issues set in motion a 40-year process of improving that consequential body of water.

Gov. Ralph Northam joined Longwood President W. Taylor Reveley IV in dedicating The Gerald L. Baliles Center for Environmental Education at Hull Springs—a 662-acre historic property on the Northern Neck that is the home for ongoing research and education projects for Longwood students.

“The Baliles Center for Environmental Education,” Hon. John Daniel II, who served as the commonwealth’s first secretary of natural resources under Baliles and is now the chair of the Longwood University Real Estate Foundation, said, “is an opportunity for scholarship, exploration, and the growth and maturation of students as they become the citizen leaders of tomorrow.”

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The property, which was bequeathed to Longwood in 1999 by alumna Mary Farley Ames Lee ’38, has for more than two decades been a center of environmental research and activity. Today, that research was boosted with the opening of a new $1.2 million research lab on the Westmoreland County property.

“I cannot imagine a more fitting tribute to Gov. Jerry Baliles than to name this facility after his legacy,” Northam said. “When I visit the Bay, I can see that the efforts started by Jerry are paying off. This is another great day for Virginia.”

A sometimes tearful, sometimes joyous ceremony was punctuated by memories of the former governor, who served from 1986-90.

“Like Joan of Arc, the patron hero of Longwood, Jerry Baliles was bold and fearless,” Longwood Rector Pia Trigiani, who read the resolution adopted by the Board of Visitors to name the property for the former governor, said. “He was focused on his three E’s: education, the environment and economic development. This place is a testament to those ideas.”

Reveley, who counted Baliles as a mentor and worked closely with him at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center, recognized members of the governor’s family who were in attendance—including his wife, the former first lady of Virginia, Jeannie—quoting a phrase Baliles often used: “This feels like old home week.”

“It was the shores and waters of the Chesapeake that gave him freedom and ease,” Reveley said. “May we bear his name well here.”

After the ceremony, visitors toured the pristine $1.2 million research laboratory. Encompassing 3,000 square feet of space at the Baliles Center, it will serve as the home for long-term research projects like the Longwood Environmental Observatory, a network of air, water and ground sensors that provides critical data for multidisciplinary student research. Dr. Dina Leech, a limnologist and biology professor at Longwood, answered questions about ongoing water-quality research that brings her students to the Baliles Center monthly for sampling and testing. That work, she said, will expand with the capabilities of the new environmental research facility and infrastructure at the property.