BLACKSBURG, Va., May 12, 2008 – When Pat Artis was a youngster, he built and launched a rocket, promptly blowing a hole in the family's truck window. His unlikely cohort in the crime – his father – shielded him by telling Pat's mother that a rock hit the vehicle. The teenager continued tinkering with rockets and eventually won a research and development award from the National Association of Rocketry.
Today, his rockets are more sophisticated. His new playground is usually a remote desert location where he can launch objects some 100,000 feet into the atmosphere, with clearance from the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA). His mother would be proud.
Rocketry remains his favorite pastime, but the 1971 graduate of Virginia Tech’s Department of Engineering Science and Mechanics is a designer of more lucrative endeavors. He and his wife, Nancy, started Performance Associates Inc. (PAI) in 1986, covering a huge niche in the complex world of information technology.
In the past 22 years, they have taken on a number of Fortune 500 clients, and they offer consulting services and seminars. They travel internationally, to places including Japan, Australia, South Africa, and Europe.
Performance Associates focuses on software products, education, and consulting related to the performance, sizing, and management of rotating magnetic storage. It helps its clients develop infrastructure strategies that allow them to maximize the performance of their existing information systems investments and select technology to meet their future requirements.
Artis serves on the College of Engineering’s Campaign Steering Committee, and he is the incoming chair of the College Advisory Board. His wife, Nancy, is a member of Radford University’s Board of Visitors, and they live full time in Pagosa, Colo., but have managed to spend about a month out of every year of late in Blacksburg.
The Artis’ have committed approximately $10 million in bequests to the engineering science and mechanics and aerospace and ocean engineering departments at Virginia Tech. They have also made a significant contribution to Radford University Information Technology Department. Their bequests to Virginia Tech’s Department of Engineering Science and Mechanics and Department of Aerospace and Ocean Engineering will assist with funding scholarships and fellowships, and provide them with opportunities that would otherwise be unavailable.
For three years, they also funded the Engineering Excellence in the 21st Century series, sponsored by Virginia Tech’s College of Engineering and the engineering science and mechanics department. They helped to bring internationally recognized figures in the space industry to campus for this series: former Space Shuttle astronaut and author Mike Mullane; Brian Binnie, who flew the history-making civilian spacecraft SpaceShipOne; and Elon Musk, founder and chief executive officer of Space Exploration Technologies Co. (SpaceX).
The Artis’, in their mid-50s, have also financed the activities of the space elevator student design team in a competition to design a structure to transport material from the earth’s surface into space. Many different types of space elevators have been suggested. The hope is to replace rocket propulsion as the means of getting certain objects into space. They also support two engineering students annually at the National Test Pilot School.
“We were given a chance and we worked hard. We still have many close friends in the College of Engineering and our gift embodies our belief in the value of the education that it provides. Everything else in life is embroidery,” Pat explains simply when speaking of their generosity.