Life of longtime Laurel Ridge benefactor Bob Sowder being celebrated April 8

For Immediate Release:
March 7, 2024

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

Sowder by fence in front of barn
Laurel Ridge President Kim Blosser called Bob Sowder "the grandfather of the Fauquier Campus."

There will be a celebration of the life of Bob Sowder at 10 a.m., Monday, April 8, in the Barkman Family Conference Center in Hazel Hall on Laurel Ridge’s Fauquier Campus. Refreshments will follow in The Barn.

Sowder, who died at age 85 on Oct. 14, was instrumental in bringing Laurel Ridge Community College to Fauquier County. A successful real-estate developer, he provided rent-free use of what has come to be known as The Barn, on his farm, as well as $90,000 to renovate it into classrooms. Soon after, Sowder donated the barn and surrounding 2½ acres to the college, which had opened its doors on Sept. 7, 1988.

Sowder, who attended a one-room school in his native West Virginia, continued to support Laurel Ridge over the years, establishing an endowed scholarship and an emergency fund for Fauquier County students, among other acts of generosity.

“I just think there’s nothing like the opportunity to offer someone an education,” Sowder said in an interview a couple of months before his passing. “There’s a lot of people who would never be able to pull themselves up by the bootstraps if it wasn’t for the local community college. It’s amazing what an education will do for you.”

The Fauquier Campus library is named in honor of him. Other honors Sowder received from the college include the Medallion of Recognition in 1989, an honorary degree in 1990 and the Chancellor’s Award for Leadership in Philanthropy in 2009.

During the celebration of the Fauquier Campus’s 35th anniversary last fall, Laurel Ridge President Kim Blosser referred to Sowder as “the grandfather of this campus,” and Foundation Board Vice Chair Joel Barkman praised Sowder and is wife Janet for their vision.

“Think of a community without this,” he said. “He had the insight and the push and the vision for this. I want to challenge us to be the next Bob Sowder.”


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.