MBU’s First Gentleman Named Citizen of the Year

March 23, 2022

Left to right: Community Foundation of the Central Blue Ridge CEO Dan Layman posing with wife and MBU President Pamela R. Fox. Layman accepting this year's Greater Augusta Regional Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year award.

Community Foundation of the Central Blue Ridge CEO Dan Layman and his team braced for action as then governor Ralph Northam announced statewide shutdowns to curb the spread of COVID-19 in March 2020.

“We knew this was a necessary step for public safety,” said Layman, a former MBU executive staffer and the husband of university President Pamela R. Fox. “But we also knew it was going to place tremendous strain on — and potentially endanger — some of our most vulnerable community members.” 

Layman and his team worried about those struggling with homelessness, single parents working low-wage hourly jobs to make ends meet, parents that lost their jobs and had no savings to fall back on, low-income seniors that relied on public transportation for groceries, kids in abusive domestic situations, the list goes on. 

Left to right: Community Foundation of the Central Blue Ridge CEO Dan Layman posing with wife and MBU President Pamela R. Fox. Layman accepting this year's Greater Augusta Regional Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year award.

“We knew [the Community Foundation] was in a unique position to try to soften some of the most negative impacts, and we were determined to leverage that position to help as many people as possible,” said Layman.  

The foundation formed in 1992 and specializes in connecting area philanthropists to causes they’re passionate about — while ensuring their gifts bring maximal impact for the community. Today it is one of the largest and most active philanthropic institutions in the region. Its success and longevity has led to deep-rooted connections with essentially every reputable charitable nonprofit in Nelson, Augusta, and Highland counties. 

Layman and company pivoted to launch a pandemic relief fund immediately after the shutdown. The team worked overtime calling on community members and longtime donors to help. Their efforts yielded an unprecedented response: The fund launched with a $100,000 donation and ultimately ballooned to more than $1.8 million — eclipsing an initial goal of $250,000. The foundation further boosted impacts by waiving administrative fees, ensuring 100 percent of the money directly benefited the community.

“When we saw the level of engagement, my first thought was, ‘We’re not going to try to tackle public health,’” said Layman. “‘Where we can make a real impact is helping people that are living on the financial edge.’”   

Layman tirelessly spearheaded distribution efforts, helping to forge partnership after partnership, program after program, in service of those that were in need. He and his team worked with the Staunton-based ARROW Project to fund dramatic increases in free or reduced-cost mental health services for local families and citizens. They helped the local United Way and YMCAs implement emergency childcare offerings. They partnered with Mary Baldwin University to turn empty dormitory space into safe lodging for at-risk residents of the Valley Mission — which is one of the Shenandoah Valley’s largest and longest operating homeless shelters. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. 

Community Foundation of the Central Blue Ridge CEO Dan Layman posing with wife Pamela Fox, his Foundation colleagues and their spouses, and the Chair of the Foundation's board of directors. The Greater Augusta Region Chamber of Commerce named him its 2021 Citizen of the Year.

The efforts didn’t go unnoticed: The 600-plus member organizations of the Greater Augusta Regional Chamber of Commerce (GARCC) named Layman their 2021 Citizen of the Year. 

“When you see the criteria for the award, Dan just checks every box,” said GARCC President Courtney Thompson. He embodies “the kind of person and work we want to showcase with this award.”

Thompson has been working with Layman in a variety of community-serving capacities since he left MBU to helm the Community Foundation in 2013. Since then Layman has sat on the GARCC board of directors, chaired its Talent Coalition workforce development initiative, co-chaired Charlottesville’s Center for Nonprofit Excellence, and more. 

“Dan is one of those guys that’s doing so much — he’s juggling so many balls but never hesitates to lend an ear or offer advice to anyone that’s trying to make a positive impact on the community,” said Thompson. “He never brags or seeks the spotlight. He’s a leader that leads from behind and lets others take the credit.” 

True to form, Layman agreed to accept the Citizen of the Year award on behalf of his team and workers at partner organizations that he said “made [the Community Foundation’s] relief effort possible.”

“I’m humbled to receive this honor, but it was by no means a one-man show,” he said. “It took a lot of great, dedicated people working in concert — and very, very hard — to make it happen. I look back on the past two years, and I feel so grateful to have played a role in this effort. What this [group of people] was able to achieve is nothing short of incredible.”

“Dan is one of those guys that’s doing so much — he’s juggling so many balls but never hesitates to lend an ear or offer advice to anyone that’s trying to make a positive impact on the community. He never brags or seeks the spotlight. He’s a leader that leads from behind and lets others take the credit.”
Greater Augusta Region Chamber of Commerce President Courtney Thompson

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