Bob Sowder feels a paternal pride over the Fauquier Campus of Lord Fairfax Community College.
WE GREW A COLLEGE IN MY FIELD
“Not bad for a country boy, one of 11 children from the mountains of southwest Virginia,” he said. “It’s just great to show everyone what education can do for you.” Sowder, a farmer and real estate developer who dropped out of high school before later earning his G.E.D., played a key role in putting the campus together – including donating the barn and farm land that today is the campus’s focal point. A Fauquier Chamber of Commerce member in the 1980s, he was part of a communitywide effort to expand Lord Fairfax into Warrenton. “I was selling alfalfa one day, and I got to looking at my barn,” Sowder said. There, he envisioned classrooms in its six large stalls with doors, students and faculty gathering in the central area. Sowder donated the barn, the 2.5 acres of land on which it stood, and $90,000 for renovations. Later he sold the rest of his farm to the county, and the Fauquier Campus opened in 1999. “It was a community-wide effort,” he said, with many working hard to make it happen. Sowder is passionate about providing opportunities he never had to future students. And he takes pride whenever he drives by the campus.