In his 18 years at Virginia Western Community College, Dr. Robert H. Sandel has spearheaded unprecedented growth that has positively impacted countless students’ lives and helped drive the Roanoke Region to new heights. His leadership has helped Virginia Western become a forward-thinking community college, inspiring individual, community and economic transformation.
Dr. Sandel has made it a priority to provide Virginia Western students with the means for success. In recent years, the campus has changed dramatically with the addition of the cutting-edge Fralin Center for Health Professions as well as a Student Life Center that features a wide array of student activities, a fitness center and food options. Currently under construction is the $30-million-plus Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Building that is slated to open in Fall 2019. The Al Pollard Culinary Arts Program recently underwent a major expansion to its facility in downtown Roanoke that doubled capacity. And finally, in collaboration with the City of Roanoke, Colonial Avenue will soon have a new look that will increase student safety and create an educational corridor.
During his tenure at the college, Dr. Sandel implemented a robust fund-raising arm to make college possible for all students regardless of financial situation. Through the Virginia Western Educational Foundation, the college established the nationally recognized Community College Access Program (CCAP), which provides up to three years of tuition to area high school graduates. Students from Botetourt County, Craig County, Franklin County, Roanoke City, Roanoke County and the City of Salem are all eligible to participate.
A native of Orangeburg, South Carolina, Dr. Sandel is a Roanoker at heart. He was named Roanoke City Citizen of the Year in 2013. He has been actively involved in the community, serving on numerous local and state boards including chair of the Roanoke Regional Chamber of Commerce, chair of the Pre-K Committee for Smart Beginnings and president of the Board of Trustees for the LewisGale Medical Center. He was named a Star Regional Honoree for exemplary service, professionalism and community leadership in the Greater Blue Ridge Region by the March of Dimes. Dr. Sandel was selected for the Ruby Award, which is given to an influential regional leader by the Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council.
Dr. Sandel earned his bachelor’s degree from The Citadel, his master’s degree from South Carolina State University and his doctorate from the University of South Carolina. Prior to joining Virginia Western, he was president of Mountain Empire Community College in Big Stone Gap and he has been a community college educator for more than 30 years.
Dr. Sandel’s wife, Jane, is a retired educator who taught at Salem High School. They have four children and 14 grandchildren.