Laurel Ridge honors retirees and distinguished staff and faculty members

For Immediate Release:
June 1, 2021

Primary Media Contact:
Sally Voth
Public Relations Specialist
[email protected]
Phone: 540-868-7134

honoree post

Laurel Ridge honored five employees and four retirees during a virtual recognition ceremony on May 13.

Each year the college presents awards to an administrator, a full-time faculty member, an adjunct faculty member, a classified staffer and one part-time staff member. This year’s honorees were:

  • Chris Coutts, the Distinguished Administrator Award recipient. Dr. Coutts, the Fauquier Campus provost, was also named vice president of communications and planning in 2020. Prior to the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, he had been tapped to take on a short-term interim role. “When the pandemic hit in March 2020, all of the responsibilities of the interim position were suddenly completely different,” Laurel Ridge President Kim Blosser said. “Chris had to manage many shifts in Virginia Community College System (VCCS) policies, implement changes to move to online learning, help support changes to online student services, communicate almost daily with faculty and deans, and through it all remain patient and nimble as conditions changed. According to one of the nominators, he was ‘the glue that kept the administrators at the middle level operational.’”
  • Bill Lewis, recipient of the Distinguished Full-Time Faculty Award. During his 38 years with Laurel Ridge, Professor Lewis has been responsible for establishing the college’s engineering program. Among the new degrees he brought to Laurel Ridge are mechanical engineering technology, computer-aided drafting technology, civil engineering technology, industrial electricity and controls technology and plastics technology. “Most recently, Bill designed and established the transfer engineering specialization,” said Dr. Ia Gomez, the college’s STEM dean. “Bill has designed and taught more than 35 new courses during his time at the college. Many of these courses were new to the VCCS.”
  • Marie Beeler, recipient of the Distinguished Classified Staff Award. An early college specialist, she was the first Laurel Ridge career coach placed at James Wood High School 15 years ago. “A faculty member recently commented, ‘What will we do without Marie?’” said Brenda Byard, dean of early college and high school partnerships. “Marie has served as the trainer for new high school career coaches as they onboard. Many express gratitude to her for sharing resources and imparting her wisdom as a former coach.” 
  • Patricia Fox, named the Distinguished Adjunct Faculty Member. The anatomy and physiology instructor has taught at various campuses and in various formats: in-person, online and hybrid.  “Trish demonstrates great passion for the subject matter, keeps the students directly engaged with the content topics presented, and makes the class enjoyable and inclusive,” said Dr. Gomez. “Trish is a consummate team player who is always ready to step up when needed. Even as her full-time job responsibilities have changed, she has continued to be an enthusiastic supporter of the college and its students.”
  • Chelsea Conrad, Distinguished Part-Time Staff Award recipient. The TRIO receptionist has a can-do attitude and has often been working on campus during the pandemic, according to TRIO Director and Coordinator of Disability Services Vivi Meder. “You can find Chelsea greeting walk-ins at the Welcome Center, fielding phone calls of all natures, helping to maintain the TRIO program, keeping the food pantry stocked, assisting students in the TRIO lounge, assisting with student outreach and much more,” Meder said.

Also during the employee recognition ceremony, four retiring employees were recognized:

  • Engineering Professor Bill Lewis. After nearly four decades at Laurel Ridge, Professor Lewis plans to start commercially selling some of the produce he grows on a large scale, as well as enjoy some fishing and other hobbies.
  • Math Professor Eunice Myers. She started as an adjunct at Laurel Ridge 32 years ago, before coming on full time in 2009. A missionary to Africa as a young adult, Professor Myers hopes to do some more traveling.
  • Early college specialist Marie Beeler. The Laurel Ridge alumna plans to travel and spend more time with her family.
  • Library specialist Annie Cato. Prior to her 10 years at Laurel Ridge, Cato’s career path included social work, being a travel agent, and working on a thoroughbred horse farm. She plans to hit as many state parks as possible in her retirement.


Founded in 1970, Laurel Ridge Community College is a multi-campus public institution of higher education. With three locations — Middletown, Warrenton, and Luray-Page County — the College serves eight localities in the Shenandoah Valley and northern Piedmont regions. The localities are the counties of Clarke, Fauquier, Frederick, Page, Rappahannock, Shenandoah and Warren and the city of Winchester. Laurel Ridge offers more than 75 associate degree and certificate programs in a wide variety of disciplines, in addition to providing access to bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree programs offered on site by a four-year institution. Laurel Ridge also serves the business community by offering workforce preparation programs for employees and employers. Laurel Ridge serves more than 9,000 unduplicated credit students and more than 11,000 individuals in professional development and business and industry courses annually.

Laurel Ridge Community College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) to award associate degrees. Laurel Ridge Community College also may offer credentials such as certificates and diplomas at approved degree levels. Questions about the accreditation of Laurel Ridge Community College may be directed in writing to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges at 1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, GA 30033-4097, by calling (404) 679-4500, or by using information available on SACSCOC’s website (

Laurel Ridge Community College is an equal opportunity institution providing educational and employment opportunities, programs, services, and activities. Laurel Ridge shall promote and maintain equal employment and educational opportunities without regard to race, color, religion, disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, ethnicity, marital status, pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions including lactation, age (except when age is a bona fide occupational qualification), status as a veteran, national origin, or other non-merit factors. Laurel Ridge also prohibits sexual misconduct including sexual violence or harassment. Inquiries may be directed to the Associate Vice President, Human Resources, [email protected]173 Skirmisher Lane, Middletown, VA 22645, 540-868-7226.

Laurel Ridge Community College was known as Lord Fairfax Community College until June 2022. For consistency purposes, the college will be referenced as Laurel Ridge going forward.