An agreement to serve as the interim executive director for a few months quickly evolved into a permanent position Jerry Gwaltney held for over four years at the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research.  Gwaltney has lead the Institute since April 2013 and will retire July 31, 2017.

Gwaltney’s service to the region via the Institute could be considered an opportunity of fate considering Gwaltney was Danville’s City Manager when the Institute was founded.  One of the first challenges facing Gwaltney as Danville’s City Manager was to recover from the loss of thousands of jobs when Dan River Mills closed its operation.  When Gwaltney took over the helm at the Institute, there were many challenges facing the institution, with an immediate need for the Institute to redefine itself to best serve the region; to create jobs.  Gwaltney intimately understood the negative effects of jobs lost in Danville and Southern Virginia and his leadership at the Institute came at a pivotal time for Southern Virginia.

“When I came on board, one of the first things we did as an organization was to review the Code of Virginia and with a laser-like focus redefine our mission,” said Gwaltney.

Under Gwaltney’s leadership, the Institute refocused on the economic transformation of Southern Virginia in the areas of applied research, advanced learning, and workforce development.  A few successes under Gwaltney’s leadership include:

  • Active research projects in the areas of advanced materials, plant science, precision agriculture, and chemistry taking place throughout the region and the Commonwealth for growers, entrepreneurs, and industry.
  • A new addition to the Institute’s capacity to deliver high quality learning opportunities via a 45-foot bus, the Inspiration Lab.  The Inspiration Lab alleviates the potential economic burden for rural schools to offer state-of-the-art technology and 3D printing opportunities to students of all ages.
  • The Southern Virginia Regional Alliance (SVRA) continues to serve the economic development efforts of the region and in FY 2016 was instrumental in $14.9 million in new economic development opportunities and over 200 new jobs.
  • A partnership with Danville Community College, the Gene Haas Center for Integrated Machining (Capstone) program, is beginning its third year on the campus of IALR and has resulted in two economic development announcements (Overfinch and SGS Kyocera Tech Hub LLC). 

Gwaltney’s commitment to job creation is evident by the Institute’s successful leadership in Southern Virginia and the Commonwealth.

“I firmly believe that through our efforts, we have positioned the Institute as a prime force in the region and solidified it for the future,” said Gwaltney.

“Jerry stepped in and provided leadership and strategic direction during a pivotal time at the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research.  He connected the dots between our charter from the state legislature, our mission, and the needs of this community.  He helped oversee the development of programs that are not only assets in our economic development toolkit, but provide outstanding opportunities for our region’s residents.  He has earned this much deserved second retirement and I wish him well as he spends more time with his family,” said IALR Board of Trustees Chairman Don Merricks.

“I have enjoyed the associations that I have made, the many new things that I have learned, and the many accomplishments that we have all achieved working together,” said Gwaltney. 

The Board of Trustees appointed IALR’s Director of Research, Mark Gignac, to serve as the Interim Executive Director effective August 1, 2017.  The Board also appointed a search committee to begin the Institute’s search for a new director.

Governor Terry McAuliffe joins Jerry Gwaltney for the recent unveiling of the Institute’s Inspiration Lab.

US Senator Mark Warner tours the Institute and the Gene Haas Center for Integrated Machining in November 2015.  The Gene Haas Center is a partnership between the Institute and Danville Community College.

Jerry Gwaltney congratulates the 2017 graduates of the Academy for Engineering and Technology at their breakfast in May.

 US Senator Tim Kaine joins Gwaltney for a tour of the Institute’s campus in April 2017.  

Graduates of the Academy for Engineering and Technology (AET) located at the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research and their families were recently honored at a special breakfast.  AET students are from Pittsylvania County and Danville City Schools.  The two-year engineering program is focused on theory and design.

AET students participate in many experiential learning activities throughout the curriculum to apply their academic knowledge to on-the-job situations and have the opportunity to participate in engineering, math, and English courses for college credit.

“It is an honor to say we now have 40 graduates from IALR’s AET program.  Engineering is a field that many students don’t know whether they will really be interested in until they have already begun college.  The AET program gives students a great opportunity to learn about and experience engineering first-hand before going away to college.  As you can see by the large number of students intending to major in engineering, the program confirmed their interest and ability to grasp the difficult engineering concepts while they were still in high school so they can begin college confident in their choice,” said Dana Silicki, IALR Advanced Learning Coordinator.

The AET 2017 Valedictorian is Dustin Holley and the Salutatorian is Raphael Bianchi.

Link to Breakfast Photos

Graduate Photo (left to right):

First row:  Arielle Hunt, attending North Carolina A&T State University to study Chemical Engineering; Emilia Kinsley attending DCC; Janaya Jones attending Elon University; Dustin Holley attending Virginia Tech to study Aerospace Engineering

Second row:  Ryan Gillie attending Rochester Institute of Technology to study Computer Science; Hunter Beck attending George Mason University to study Mechanical Engineering; Levi Smith attending George Mason University to study Mechanical Engineering; Bryce Reynolds attending George Mason University to study Engineering

Third row: Payton McGarvey enlisting in the US Air Force; Jon Stephens attending Averett University to study Music & Education/Computer Science minor; Chandler Eskey attending Christopher Newport University to study Engineering; Johnte Lipford attending the University of Kentucky to study Electrical Engineering

Back row:  Mitchell Doss attending Randolph College to study Engineering Physics-Biomedical; Raphael Bianchi attending James Madison University to study Engineering or enlisting in the Swiss Service; Will Crumpton attending Western Carolina University to study Mechanical or Systems Engineering; and Harrison Cook attending Virginia Commonwealth University to study Computer Science

Not Pictured:  Tahvon Davis attending Virginia Military Institute to study Mechanical Engineering; Ian Jefferson attending Danville Community College to study Computer Science; Adrian Manzano attending Virginia Commonwealth University to study Computer Science; David Ragsdale attending Virginia Tech to study Engineering; Victoria Shirey attending Longwood University to study Communication Science & Disorders; and Roman West attending Virginia Tech to study Aerospace Engineering

Photo 1:  Brian Buchanan, Danville Science Center Education Coordinator, explains how planets in our solar system orbit the sun.

Photo 2:  Family STEM Night featured fun STEM-themed activities for children, adults, and community groups including the Danville Science Center and Danville Public Library.


Photo 3:  Dan River Year AmeriCorps Member, Caitlin Hutcherson, helps a budding scientist pour iron oxide powder; one of the ingredients used to make magnetic slime!





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