Virginia Tech President Tim Sands speaks Nov. 13 at an event to announce a 1 million-square-foot technology-focused campus in Alexandria. (Cliff Owen/AP)

Virginia Tech announced Thursday it will receive a record $50 million gift to support biomedical research, a landmark donation for the public university that will expand the influence of its academic health center in Roanoke.

The gift comes from the Horace G. Fralin Charitable Trust and from Heywood and Cynthia Fralin. It is twice as large as the previous record, a $25 million donation from Alice and Bill Goodwin for an engineering building that opened in 2014 on the university’s main campus in Blacksburg.

The new funding will help the university recruit and retain researchers, a spokesman said. A biomedical research institute will be named for the Fralin family and based within the Virginia Tech Carilion Academic Health Center.

“The Fralin family’s remarkable generosity highlights the growth and success of the VTC Health Sciences and Technology Campus, its important biomedical research, and extraordinary faculty,” university President Tim Sands said in a statement.

Heywood Fralin, a Roanoke business executive, is a former member of Virginia Tech’s governing board. He also once led the governing board of the University of Virginia, his alma mater, and now chairs the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia.

“I appreciate that Virginia Tech and the commonwealth have made such a major investment in the City of Roanoke and the region,” Fralin said in the statement. “I believe that it’s the responsibility of everybody to give back to your community and to leave things better than you found them. I hope many others will come forward to support this emerging academic health center, because when it comes to Roanoke’s future, there is no bigger story.”

Fralin’s older brother, the late Horace Fralin, was also a benefactor of the university. Gov. Ralph Northam (D) praised Heywood Fralin as "a tireless champion of education as a means of empowering our state’s citizens and communities.”

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