The following people are being honored during Virginia Western’s 2022 Commencement Ceremony.

2022 Emeritus Honorees

Administrative/Professional Faculty Emeritus: Dr. James Sargent

Dr. Sargent began as a full-time Associate Professor of History/Government in September 1977 and was promoted to the rank of Professor in June 1982. He was promoted to the position of Division Chair of Social Science in July 1994. Following a transition of formal title to the Dean of Social Science in 2002, Dr. Sargent continued to serve the school and his students until his retirement in 2010 after 32 years of service.

During his time as a faculty member, Dr. Sargent’s supervisor continuously praised his efforts with teaching, student interactions and College service. Throughout the years, some of the phrases used to describe him were an outstanding member of the division, innovative, pioneering, dedicated and student focused. Comments continued to showcase his efforts with his transition to the Dean role, noting exceptional leadership in his first year, increased morale and a continued advocacy for the use of technology in operations and teaching. Two quotes from evaluations toward the end of his career sum up his time with Virginia Western: Dr. Sargent always showed a “genuine interest in the success and welfare of his students” and his faculty recognized that he was “an advocate who stands for excellence and accountability.”

Since 1972, Dr. Sargent has written 10 books and over 100 articles covering a range of topics from American history, historical accounts of both men’s and women’s professional baseball, as well as a series of mystery novels, and to this day continues to be a prolific writer of both fiction and non-fiction.

Teaching Faculty Emeritus: Thelma Simpson

Thelma began her career at Virginia Western in August 1997 as an adjunct faculty member teaching multiple levels of Spanish. In August 2006, she joined the College as full-time faculty and continued to develop a love for language in her students until her retirement in January 2019.

One of her nominations noted that she started out as a student at Virginia Western and that her experiences strengthened her ability to connect with and serve her students. She was dedicated to the success of her students and her willingness to help her students was termed “extraordinary.” Thelma wanted to ensure that students with a love for language were provided with every opportunity to grow, so she offered independent study options for students whose schedules conflicted with classes as well as those who wanted their pursuits with language to move beyond what was traditionally offered in the classroom. Her service was described as “whole-hearted” – for the College, her students and her colleagues.

As a faculty member, Thelma continuously received excellent ratings from her students as well as positive feedback from her Dean and colleagues. One common phrase from everyone was that she “goes above and beyond” and was always willing to volunteer to assist the College and her colleagues, and sought out opportunities to participate in events and educational offerings. Her students raved about her positive, fun environment and her obvious passion and enthusiasm for language and teaching, as well as how she shared her own cultural experiences with them to enhance their knowledge. One student stated that she was the “greatest teacher of all time.” Perhaps one student summed up her ability to make language come alive through the following: “I have been taking Spanish since 6th grade. I learned and understood more in one semester than in 6 years.”

Staff Emeritus: Officer Guy Gibson

Officer Gibson came to Virginia Western with over 20 years of experience in an institutional setting. Hired as a Campus Police Officer in June 2001, he was a comforting presence for students, faculty and staff alike until his retirement in November 2020.

Officer Gibson’s nomination is a testament to his amazing blend of professionalism and personality. While he was an outstanding officer, he is often first remembered for his warm, genuine, caring approach and desire to best serve the College and all its community. He was nominated and accepted to the 2016 Classified Staff Leadership Academy for the VCCS and represented the College numerous times at community outreach events. Officer Gibson organized a regional SWAT training day that was attended – and appreciated – by multiple local SWAT teams.

As an officer, he demonstrated an excellent and effective balance of upholding laws and policies while developing and maintaining relationships. He focused on engaging with the entire campus community, and was described as professional, courteous, proactive, friendly and fair. His sense of humor was legendary, and he used his time walking the campus to build relationships, check in on different offices and spread a sense of comfort and security. Officer Gibson was admired, appreciated and simply well-liked by the campus community, including his colleagues. Perhaps a quote from our Police Chief toward the end of Officer Gibson’s time with us sums it up nicely: “If I had 20 more (years) to pull, I would want you along for the ride.”

2022 Faculty Marshal

Paula Derbyshire

A native of Charlottesville, Paula moved to Roanoke in 1983. She earned a BS in Biology from Longwood University and then graduated from the Medical College of Virginia/Virginia Commonwealth University with a BS in Dental Hygiene. Prior to teaching, she practiced clinical dental hygiene for two years.

In 1985 she began her teaching career at Virginia Western. While at Virginia Western, she taught clinical and didactic courses. She served as Clinic Coordinator, Interim Program Head and helped implement the Joint Venture Distance Learning Dental Hygiene Program with Danville and Lord Fairfax Community Colleges. While teaching, she completed a MEd in Community Health from Virginia Tech. She received the Teaching Excellence Award in the School of Health Professions for 2019. For 35 years her life was forever enriched by her students and colleagues. Paula retired as an Associate Professor in December 2020. She and her husband are fully enjoying retirement.

2022 Commencement Keynote Speaker

VCCS Chancellor, Dr. Glenn DuBois

Glenn DuBois is a community college graduate who has dedicated his entire career to ensuring the opportunity he received is available to those coming behind him. DuBois is the longest-serving chancellor in the history of Virginia’s Community Colleges (VCCS), hired in 2001. Since then, he has led the system of 23 colleges and 40 campuses through three successful strategic plans, and into a fourth called Opportunity 2027, which aspires to increase equity and student success throughout the VCCS. DuBois announced last summer that he will retire June 30, 2022.

Virginia’s Community Colleges have, during DuBois’s tenure, signed groundbreaking guaranteed transfer agreements with dozens of public and private universities; become Virginia’s leading provider of workforce development training; diversified community college resources through expanded philanthropy efforts; maintained a tuition rate that is one-third of the comparable rate at Virginia’s public universities; and begun innovative programs like FastForward and G3 to make postsecondary credentials leading to good-paying jobs more accessible and affordable.

The Phi Theta Kappa National Honor Society presented DuBois with their State Community College Award of Distinction at its national convention in April 2008.

Prior to coming to Virginia, DuBois built an impressive record of executive higher education leadership, including serving as the Commissioner and CEO of the New Hampshire Community Technical College System as well as the Director of Community Colleges for the State University of New York – one of America’s largest networks of community colleges.

DuBois earned his doctorate in higher education administration, research and policy from the University of Massachusetts. He holds a master’s degree from Eastern Kentucky University, a bachelor’s degree from Florida Atlantic University and an associate of science degree from the State University of New York in Farmingdale.