For more than a decade, Dr. Ray Gaskins has championed Longwood students both on and off the court. Now with a landmark gift, he will provide even more educational opportunities for the brightest of Longwood University’s student-athletes with The Dr. Ray Gaskins Award for Academic Excellence in Athletics.
Established by a $250,000 estate gift from Gaskins, Longwood has endowed two athletics scholarships for a high-achieving male and female student-athlete. This year’s recipients are men’s soccer midfielder Matthew Ward and women’s soccer forward Danielle Toone.
Toone and Ward are the inaugural recipients of The Dr. Ray A. Gaskins Award for Academic Excellence in Athletics, which recognizes two student-athletes who have a minimum 3.6 grade point average and who have demonstrated consistent commitment to both athletic and academic excellence.
Dr. Gaskins has committed to annually funding the awards, which will be presented to two student-athletes each year on National Student-Athlete Day. His generosity will provide two scholarships of $2,500 that will be applied to each student-athlete’s tuition for the coming academic year.Moreover, the awards will live-on in perpetuity as Dr. Gaskins has committed an estate gift of $250,000 which, once realized, will increase the annual awards to two $5,000 scholarships.
“Dr. Gaskins’ longstanding generosity to Longwood University has reaped tremendous benefits for so many Longwood students and the campus community as a whole, and The Gaskins Award for Academic Excellence is the latest example of that.” said Longwood athletics director Michelle Meadows.
“You will be hard-pressed to find two more deserving student-athletes for this award than Dani and Matt. They both embody so much of what Longwood University is all about, and I speak for our entire department when I express my gratitude to Dr. Gaskins for honoring the examples these two have set with these scholarships. Beyond that, Dr. Gaskin’s commitment to endowing these scholarships will not only provide a tangible award for our high-achieving student-athletes, but will also annually shine a spotlight on the qualities we strive to foster in all our Lancers.”
In awarding The Gaskins Award for Academic Excellence in Athletics to Toone and Ward, Gaskins is supporting the education of two of Longwood’s most high-achieving student-athletes. Both are members of the Longwood University Cormier Honors College, both have received Dean’s List recognition throughout their time at Longwood, and both have made major contributions to their respective programs in athletic, academic, leadership and community service roles.
Toone, a two-year starter on the women’s soccer team, is a Communication Sciences and Disorders major whose career aspirations are to become a speech language pathologist after graduation. Hailing from Berryville, Va., Toone has played in more than 40 games and started more than 20 in her Lancer career while also earning Dean’s List recognition every semester at Longwood, including two semesters on the President’s List. Off the field she is a tutor in statistics and in Longwood’s qualitative research center, a member of the National Student Speech-Language Association, and is in the early stages of founding a local branch of “Operation Smile,” a national organization that works with individuals who have a cleft lip or cleft palate.
Meanwhile, Ward is a communication studies major with an emphasis in public relations and image management. A native of Wilmington, N.C., he has been a contributor to Longwood men’s soccer since his freshman year and is also involved in a number of campus organizations, including the Alpha Lambda Delta Honor Society, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and the Invitation to Freedom campus ministry, of which he is the founder.
“I enjoy and appreciate collegiate athletics, especially at Longwood,” Gaskins said. “The rigors these student-athletes undergo is something I understand very well. It is for that very reason that I chose to honor those that are performing at a very high level academically while representing Longwood in the field of play. I was fortunate enough to meet both of this year’s recipients, and they appear to be quite impressive, well-deserving student-athletes.”
Gaskins, a member of the Lancer Club Advisory Board and a longtime Longwood basketball season-ticket holder, has funded scholarship opportunities for Longwood students involved in various aspects of student life and pursuing several different areas of study.
Among the scholarships established by his gifts are the Dr. Ray A. Gaskins Basketball Scholarship, awarded to a member of the Longwood men’s basketball team; The Mrs. Bessie M. Land Gaskins Teacher’s Scholarship, awarded to a student who plans to become a teacher; The Dr. Ray A. Gaskins Math & Computer Science Scholarship, awarded to a student majoring in either math or computer science; The John Allen Gaskins Scholarship, awarded to a student majoring in the College of Business and Economics; The Elsie M. Small Scholarship, awarded to a student majoring in the College of Education & Human Services; and The Beverly Gaskins Vincent Scholarship Fund, also awarded to a student majoring in the College of Education & Human Services.
A 1972 graduate of Virginia Tech who earned his Ph.D. in statistics, Gaskins is a career educator who was a member of the mathematics and computer science faculty at Hampden-Sydney College for 27 years. Since his retirement in 1997, his affinity for Longwood athletics has evolved into philanthropy and leadership positions. He previously committed more than half a million dollars to Longwood athletics in 2015 to fund the Dr. Ray A. Gaskins Basketball Scholarship, which was part of a larger gift of more than $1 million to Longwood University.