Gene James of Richmond is the recipient of the 2008 University Distinguished Achievement Award in recognition of his distinguished personal and professional accomplishments.
The University Distinguished Achievement Award is given annually at commencement to recognize a person of national distinction in any field of enduring significance to society.
James is a 1953 graduate of Virginia Tech with a bachelor’s degree in animal science. As an undergraduate, he served as a member of the corps of cadets, the Virginia Tech Golf Team, the Block and Bridle Club, Phi Sigma Biological Society, and the Monogram Club.
James then embarked upon a long and successful career of more than 43 years with Southern States Cooperative. His leadership opportunities increased throughout his career from management trainee to being named president and chief executive officer. He led the company from 1980 until he retired in 1997.
James has promoted the success of some of the nation’s most cooperative endeavors. His participation in the International Symposium of Cooperative Managers has brought together top executives in Europe and the United States.
Throughout his career, James has served his community in many capacities as a member of the Governor’s Virginia Agricultural Credit Committee, chairman of the board of CF Industries Inc., chairman of the board of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, a longtime board member and chairman of Virginia United Methodist Homes Inc., chairman and board member of the National Institute of Cooperative Education, Vice President of the Metro Richmond Chamber of Commerce, a board member of Metro Richmond YMCA, a board member of Farm Credit Leasing Corporation Inc., and a longtime board member of Crestar Financial Corporation Inc.
James’ service to Virginia Tech has been extensive. He has served on the Virginia Tech Foundation Board of Directors as its chairman and as a member of its Executive Committee, as well as the Virginia Tech Alumni Board of Directors as a member and its president. He has also served on the university’s Economic Development Council, the Leadership Council of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, the Campaign Steering Committee, the Alumni Center National Leadership Campaign Committee, and the Hokies for Higher Education Class of 1953 Reunion Committee.
James’ philanthropic contributions have allowed him to be recognized as a member of the Ut Prosim Society, the university’s most prestigious donor recognition society. Along with his wife, Ina Mae James, he has created an endowed graduate scholarship to support students in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and has supported the corps of cadets, the Holtzman Alumni and Skelton Conference Centers, Intercollegiate Athletics, and the Alumni Association.