Highlanders in the News: Week of Dec. 5

Every week, our Highlanders are using their education to do extraordinary things. Here, we’ll highlight some notable mentions from local, regional, national and international news media. Whether our students, alumni, faculty and staff are featured as subject matter experts in high-profile stories or simply helping make the world a better place, we’ll feature their stories.

Professor Emeritus Skip Watts, Ph.D.

Lake effect

Ask most people what they know about Mountain Lake in Giles County, Virginia, and the odds are fair you’ll get at least one of two answers: A) Parts of the 1987 movie “Dirty Dancing” were shot there, and B) the water levels are inconsistent bordering on nonexistent.

A Dec. 5 Cardinal News story by Randy Walker, however, is filled with facts about Mountain Lake, including its origin story – it was formed about 6,000 years ago by an enormous landslide that created a natural-but-imperfect dam, which accounts for the waters’ ever-changing levels.

The story also includes insights from Radford University geology Professor Emeritus Skip Watts, Ph.D., who has long studied Mountain Lake,  as well as geology Professor Beth McClellan, Ph.D. 

Beth McClellan, Ph.D.

It says that in 2014, Watts and other faculty from Radford University used a remote-controlled submersible to examine the leaking dam, and their data was used in later attempts to preserve the lake.

Throughout the lake’s history, Watts explains, “the sedimentological evidence indicates that it has sometimes been full of water, and sometimes it’s been empty completely. So, it goes through long-term cycles. It may not fill back up naturally within our lifetimes, or it might.”

Radford geologists are still examining the lake and have another survey planned for January 2023, according to the article.


ESPN's Marty Smith '98

Getting with the program

When ESPN airs this year’s Heisman Trophy show on Saturday, Dec. 10,  at 8 p.m. – a broadcast that will culminate in the announcement of the winner for 2022 – there’ll be a familiar face front and center, right alongside the many college football hopefuls.

Network sports journalist Marty Smith ’98 will be interviewing some of this year’s Heisman finalists, as well their relatives and coaches.

“I’ve had a lot of pinch-me moments over the years, but when I got this opportunity, man, it’s way up there," Smith told The Roanoke Times in a Dec. 7 article about his ongoing participation in the coverage.

“They’re important interviews to do, and the reason is, ‘How many people in this life get to quite literally live a dream?’” Smith said.

This marks the second year Smith has been called upon to huddle with the finalists, and in the article he talks at length about that job, the award’s significance and the joys covering college football. Smith also spins the tale of a “phantom thread” with local significance that his Richmond, Virginia, tailor stitched into the suit he wore during last year’s broadcast. 

Kwabena Osei-Sarpong ’05

Advisory counsel

Last year’s outstanding alumnus – Kwabena Osei-Sarpong ’05 – has been tapped by U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo to join the President’s Advisory Council on Doing Business in Africa (PAC-DBIA).

Founded in 2014, the PAC-DBIA promotes commercial exchanges between the United States and Africa through interaction with the commerce secretary.

“I am humbled to be appointed … and look forward to contributing my knowledge and experience to strengthen and expand business relations between the United States and Africa,” Osei-Sarpong said in a news release.

His two-year appointment was announced on Dec. 3 by AmaGhanaOnline.

A native of Ghana, West Africa, Osei-Sarpong came to Radford University in 2002 and said it “soon became my home away from home.”

After graduation, he founded RIFE International, a company that focuses on energy-efficient government contracting, and is its chief executive officer.

In 2021, he received Radford University’s Outstanding Alumnus Award, which recognizes a graduate who has made remarkable contributions to society through their profession. 

Brad Beam '21

Safety feature

When Brad Beam was named director of public safety for Amherst County, Virginia, back in October, it was a logical progression.

Beam joined the Martinsville Fire and EMS Department in 1999, worked there for more than a decade and later served almost as long as a captain and battalion chief in Williamsburg. In 2021, he earned his bachelor’s degree in emergency service from Radford University. He’s even the son of a fire chief and an emergency dispatcher.

“Fire and EMS, I gravitated toward it and have never looked back,” Beam told Lynchburg’s News & Advance in a recent profile. “I grew up with it and knew that it was what I wanted to do with my life.”

The article covers Beam’s background extensively, surveys his new position and shares his plans for the future – including a self-imposed mission to cultivate and recruit support from the Amherst community.

“My goal is [to] have more volunteers when I leave than the day I came in,” Beam told the newspaper.

Dec 9, 2022
Neil Harvey
(540) 831-5150