Gift of more than $1 million endows two scholarships—one for men’s basketball, one for future teachers
Dr. Ray Gaskins, a retired faculty member at Hampden-Sydney College, endowed two scholarships—one athletic, one academic—with a $1 million gift to Longwood this fall. He also gave additional funds to provide operating support for the men’s basketball program.
The Dr. Ray A. Gaskins Scholarship will be awarded to a member of the Longwood men’s basketball team. The Mrs. Bessie M. Land Gaskins Teacher’s Scholarship, created in memory of Gaskins’ mother, will go to a student who plans to become a teacher.
Although she never realized her own dream of becoming a teacher, Gaskins’ mother inspired him to pursue a teaching career.
In 1924, Bessie Mae Land enrolled at State Teachers College, the institution that would eventually become Longwood University. Land wanted to be a teacher, but due to a family emergency shortly after she arrived on campus, she was forced to abandon her dream.
Land went on to marry, raise three children and manage the family business alongside her husband, John Gaskins. She passed along her admiration for the teaching profession to her son, Ray Gaskins, who earned his doctorate in statistics from Virginia Tech in 1972 and taught for 27 years at Hampden-Sydney College as a professor of mathematics and computer science.
Now Gaskins, who retired in 1997, is honoring his mother’s and his own affection for the education profession with a gift that over time will help many Longwood students realize their dreams.
“The fact that the majority of [the gift] will support student scholarships speaks to Dr. Gaskins’ passion as an educator and his devotion to providing students with the opportunity to obtain an excellent liberal arts education,” said Dr. Joan Neff, provost and vice president for academic affairs.
The largest gift from a Prince Edward County resident in Longwood history, the donation totals $1,035,000, with $1,010,000 going to create the scholarships and the remaining $25,000 providing operating support for men’s basketball.
“Dr. Gaskins has long been a supporter of Longwood University and Longwood athletics, but this step to endow two scholarships is grand in both scope and generosity. Our mission in athletics is to expand the profile of the university, energize the Longwood community and provide a quality experience for our student athletes,” said Troy Austin, director of athletics. Ray’s support allows us to take these objectives to another level.”
The $530,000 that will go to athletics is the largest gift in the history of the department and the latest in a decade’s worth of support from Gaskins, a longtime men’s basketball season ticker holder. He has also contributed funding toward the purchase of the video board in Willett Hall, along with new computers
and scouting software for the men’s basketball program.