BLACKSBURG, Va., Dec. 9, 2003 – Gregory N. Brown of Blacksburg, Va., dean of the College of Natural Resources at Virginia Tech since 1992, will retire from the university at the end of June 2004. Brown, the only dean the college has had since it was established, is also associate director of the Virginia Agricultural Experiment Station and a tenured professor.
"Greg Brown is a highly respected, talented and energetic individual who is leaving a lasting mark on the college and university. He is a man of integrity, a go-to person in time of need. While we wish him the best in his well earned retirement, his leadership, dedication, and vision will be sorely missed," said Mark McNamee, provost and vice president for academic affairs, in announcing Brown's decision to retire.
Brown, who will be 66 in February, said he has enjoyed his time at Virginia Tech and serving in the role of dean. "We have outstanding faculty and staff members here, and I'll miss them and many parts of the job. But I feel that I am ready to retire and that it is time for someone younger with vision and energy to come in." He and his wife plan to move to Asheville, N.C.
Brown delayed his retirement when he was tapped as interim dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Jan. 1, 2003, a position he held for seven months while still serving as dean of Natural Resources. He also remained to oversee completion of the 9,000-square-foot Cheatham Hall addition, which was dedicated in March. The enlarged Cheatham Hall houses administrative and faculty offices as well as classrooms. The agriculture/natural resources building under construction adjacent to Cheatham will provide a number of laboratories for the College of Natural Resources.
The college, created by legislative mandate, evolved from a School of Forestry and Wildlife Resources in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. It opened in 1993 as the College of Forestry and Wildlife Resources, and under Brown's guidance, its name was changed in 1999 to the College of Natural Resources. "In my estimation, changing the name of our college opened a lot of doors to us relative to contacts with funding agencies and prospective students," he said.
With Brown at its helm, the college has changed dramatically during its 10-year history. Its physical space has been increased by 15,000 square feet and will grow by another 22,000 square feet with the college's share of the new agriculture and natural resources building now under construction. The student body has increased, and a high percentage of the majors find jobs in their fields. The faculty has grown from 55 to nearly 70, and the department of geography has been moved into the college. Extramural research grants and contracts have more than doubled, from $4 million during the early days of the college to more than $8 million projected for this year. Private fundraising has resulted in a substantial endowment, and the college now has seven named professors. International programs, including student exchanges, study abroad programs, and research and development programs, have grown substantially.
The college's program offerings have also expanded. It now offers courses at Virginia Tech's Northern Virginia Center and represents the only natural resources higher education presence in Northern Virginia. The State Council of Higher Education for Virginia recently approved the college's proposed master of natural resources program. An option in urban forestry has been implemented, and a water resources management option and an environmental education option are being designed. And the college has developed a "3+2" program, which culminates in a bachelor's degree from another institution and a professional master's degree from Virginia Tech, in concert with two other institutions: Delaware State University, an historically black college (HBC), and James Madison University. Work is under way with other HBCs to expand the program.
The founding dean has also pushed for greater diversity in the faculty ranks. When the college began, it had no women and no members of ethnic minority groups on its faculty. During Brown's tenure, seven women and three people of color were recruited to faculty positions. "This leaves a long way to go, but it is a start," he said.
Brown leaves Virginia Tech with 26 years of academic administrative work and 15 years in teaching and research during his career. Educated at Iowa State, Yale and Duke, he earned a doctor of forestry degree and began working as a plant physiologist at Oak Ridge National Laboratory before moving into higher education. He has taught at several universities and has served as director of graduate studies for the School of Forestry at the University of Missouri; department head at the University of Minnesota; and dean, acting vice president for academic affairs, associate director of the Maine Agricultural Experiment Station, vice president for research and public service, and acting president of the University of Maine. He also served Virginia Tech as interim provost for two months in 1995.
Brown has written more than 150 publications on forest biology and environmental stress physiology in woody plants, served on boards of directors for environmental and industrial organizations, and been the editor for both Forest Science and the International Directory of Woody Plant Physiologists. He has served as president of the National Association of Professional Forestry Schools and Colleges and chaired the Board on Natural Resources for the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges (NASULGC), the Powell River Project, and the NASULGC/U.S. Geological Survey Partnership.
Sharron Quisenberry, dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, will chair the search committee for Brown's replacement.
The College of Natural Resources at Virginia Tech consistently ranks among the top five programs of its kind in the nation. Faculty members stress both the technical and human elements of natural resources and instill in students a sense of stewardship and land-use ethics. Areas of studies include environmental resource management, fisheries and wildlife sciences, forestry, geospatial and environmental analysis, natural resource recreation, urban forestry, wood science and forest products, geography and international development.
Founded in 1872 as a land-grant college, Virginia Tech has grown to become the largest university in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Today, Virginia Tech's eight colleges are dedicated to putting knowledge to work through teaching, research and outreach activities and to fulfilling its vision to be among the top 30 research universities in the nation. At its 2,600-acre main campus located in Blacksburg and other campus centers in Northern Virginia, Southwest Virginia, Hampton Roads, Richmond and Roanoke, Virginia Tech enrolls more than 28,000 full- and part-time undergraduate and graduate students from all 50 states and more than 100 countries in 170 academic degree programs.