Community grieves university leaders

The Virginia Wesleyan campus and community mourn the loss of Frank Blocker Jr. and Dr. Mort Gamble.

At the end of January, the VWU community lost two members, Dr. Mort Gamble and Frank Blocker Jr. Gamble served as the Senior Vice President here at VWU. Blocker served as an advocate for the VWU education and science program and was also on the Board of Trustees for the university.  

Frank Blocker Jr. was a longtime trustee of the university, and passed away on Jan. 25, 2020 from natural causes. Blocker’s contributions to the university can be seen in the buildings and gifts he has given the campus community. 

Blocker Hall was established thanks to his contributions and honors his parents. Blocker never stopped his dedication to this science and humanities building and contributed to many renovations that the hall has received over time including updates to the Blocker Auditorium, multiple research labs and the electron microscope. 

Blocker was always an advocate for VWU, but also for YMCA. In order to combine his passions, Blocker helped to establish Frank Blocker Jr. Youth Center. 

This building is used to work with the Tidewater Collegiate Academy during the school year as an academic partnership for teacher education programs. In the summer, the YMCA uses the space to host Camp Red Feather. Camp Red Feather hosts children ages 6 to 16 and welcomes them to participate in both recreational activities and learning about the university.

“He was a visionary in that he saw the program was growing…and it was his love of Virginia Wesleyan and his love of the YMCA that led to these projects coming together in such a productive way that benefitted both organizations,” President Miller said. 

Miller went on to speak about Blocker as a “genuinely committed visionary” to this institution who aided the community by providing many gifts that furthered the success of our academic programs.  

Dr. Mort Gamble passed on Jan. 29, 2020 at the age of 68 due to medical issues that arose. Gamble served as the Senior Vice President for the university, and worked closely with President Miller.  

Starting his position here in 2016, Gamble supervised fundraising, and worked closely with alumni, parent, government, church and business relations. He served as chief of staff to the president, and was also known for being an associate professor in the communications department. 

Gamble attended university in West Virginia where he received his master’s and baccalaureate degrees in education and his doctorate in higher education. He worked at a variety of higher education institutions including West Virginia Wesleyan College, Fairmont State University, Waynesburg University, Hood College and George Washington University. 

Gamble’s career with Miller began when the two worked together at Bethany College and he was later asked to join him when he became president of this university. 

Gamble has worked alongside Miller for about 13 years, but their connection began with Gamble serving as Miller’s advisor back at West Virginia University. “He was a kind, caring, and considerate individual who was the behind the scenes guy” Miller said.  

Through their daily interactions, Gamble worked to drive Miller’s agenda 24/7, and was known to sit in on meetings for Miller when he could not attend. Gamble could be seen daily running operations over the President’s Office, the Advancement Office, and the Marketing and Communications Office.

“He was a close friend; He was a distinguished colleague…We lost someone who was a quiet leader,” Miller said.  

Miller was honored to give the eulogy for Gamble at his funeral, and reflected on the time they met during his undergraduate career. In said eulogy, Miller quoted a letter that Gamble had written to him that Thanksgiving stating that “I’m working at a place [Virginia Wesleyan]  that I like and believe in; I am living in a community I enjoy; I work with a staff I really like and for a boss I respect. And I’m doing what I really set out to do.” 

The VWU community mourns the loss of these two gentlemen tremendously, especially the staff and faculty who worked in close relations with them. 

Their legacies will be remembered in many ways, both through their actions and their contributions. Their values of compassion, hard work, and dedication will live on through the lives of those they touched here at VWU.

Lauren Faulkner