Mary White Lawson Receives the 2019 Kathleen H. Smith Distinguished Service Award


It is with great pleasure that we at the VFCCE announce the 2019 recipient of the Kathleen H. Smith Distinguished Service Award is Mary Lawson of Southwest Virginia Community College.

About the Award

The Kathleen H. Smith Distinguished Service Award honors a leader whose devotion and inspiring achievements in the field of institutional advancement helped elevate the profession. This special award recognizes the accomplishments of an advancement professional within the Virginia Community College System (VCCS) who demonstrates:  

  1. Commitment to community college education through outstanding advancement work at their college, along with other contributions to their college.
  2. Elevating the profession through leadership and impact on other advancement professionals, statewide and/or nationally.
  3. Positive impact on the Commonwealth through service outside of their role as a college advancement professional, such as serving on boards of local non-profits, leadership of community groups.
Mary W. Lawson (right) , 2019 recipient of the Kathleen H. Smith Distinguished Service Award, with Kathleen Smith (left) at the 2019 Chancellor’s Retreat at the Hotel Roanoke on October 17.

Recognizing Dedication Through Action

Mary White Lawson served as the Executive Director of the Southwest Virginia Community College Educational Foundation for 25 years. During that time Mary successfully established one of the largest foundations in the Virginia Community College System through her community involvement and dedication to the college that serves the service region of Buchanan, Dickenson, Russell, and Tazewell Counties in Virginia.

Mary began her career at Southwest Virginia Community College (SWCC) in 1987 as the Executive Director of the Educational Foundation. Shortly after, she began working on a $7.5 million “Fulfill the Vision” Campaign which enabled the College to build the Charles R. King Community Center on campus. The community center has since become the hub of community outreach and events at SWCC and includes a performance auditorium, the Ellen Von Dehsen Elmes Art Gallery, several conference rooms, a weight room and racquetball court, a gymnasium as well as housing the college’s award-winning Music Department.

Mary’s connections throughout the community and her fundraising abilities have provided outreach to the community and have brought considerable recognition to our campus and region. Working with community members, private foundations and local businesses to fund scholarships, Mary has afforded countless students with the ability to afford a college education. In addition, she has brought cultural opportunities to Southwest Virginia through her work with Citizens for the Arts (CART) and the Festival of the Arts program that is held on the SWCC campus annually. Each year the Festival of the Arts program focuses on a different country or region of the world and the culture of that region is brought to life through music, drama, art and fellowship.

Mary is always available to give advice and to train others on the importance of being the “face” of SWCC in the community. Her commitment to arts and education is evidenced by her involvement in many local projects and programs which include: Founding member and first president of CART; an appointment by the Governor as the Commissioner of the Arts for the Virginia Commission of the Arts; an appointment by her peers as the areal panelist for the Virginia Commission for the Arts; Founding member and member of the Board of Directors for the Historic Crab Orchard Museum in Tazewell, Virginia; Member of the Tazewell Music Club and the pianist for First United Methodist Church in Richlands, Virginia.

Mary currently serves on the Committee for the Renovation of the Railroad Section House in Richlands. Virginia. In addition, she has served on the Board of Directors for the Richlands Chamber of Commerce and received the Distinguished Citizen of the Year Award in 1980.

Congratulations, Mary!

Mary Lawson was presented with the Kathleen H. Smith Distinguished Service Award at the 2019 Chancellor’s Retreat in October. Please join us in congratulating her and thanking her for her ongoing dedication to serving the students of Virginia’s community colleges.