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Virginia Tech News / Articles / 2009 / 04 

College of Agriculture and Life Sciences bestows highest honor on William C. Latham, William E. Skelton

April 13, 2009

Bill Latham (left) and Bill Skelton
Bill Latham (left) and Bill Skelton

William C. Latham of Haymarket, Va., and the late William E. Skelton of Blacksburg, were inducted into Virginia Tech's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Hall of Fame on March 20. The Hall of Fame honors those individuals who exemplify career accomplishment and for their service to the college and university.

“Bill Latham and Bill Skelton are truly deserving of this recognition. They have been instrumental in helping advance Virginia Tech’s land-grant mission of learning, discovery, and engagement,” said Loke T. Kok, interim dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. “Through their support and dedication to the college and university, we have been able to provide resources that greatly enhance our students’ educational experience.”

A 1955 graduate of Virginia Tech, Bill Latham returned home to Haymarket to operate Waterloo Farm, a 700-acre dairy and general farm where Bill and his wife Betty raised four children. In 1973, the Lathams founded Budget Motels Inc.

Latham has served the university tirelessly for more than 50 years. He served two-terms on the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors, where he chaired the Building and Grounds Committee and was also appointed vice rector. He also served on the National Leadership Campaign Committee for the university’s Alumni and Conference Center Campaign; filled leadership roles in Virginia Tech’s two earlier capital campaigns, and served as co-chair for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Campaign Committee.

In 1996, he received the Alumni Distinguished Service Award in recognition of his service and dedication to the university and received the 2007 William H. Ruffner Medal, the university's most prestigious honor.

The Latham family’s generosity to Virginia Tech is evident in scholarships, research, and enhancements for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences including the livestock teaching arena, the Northern Virginia 4-H Center, and the agriculture research building, which bears the Latham name. Bill and Betty are members of the President’s Circle of the Ut Prosim Society, which is the university’s most prestigious donor recognition society for those whose lifetime philanthropy has reached an outstanding level.

Bill Skelton was known worldwide for his exceptional lifetime of outstanding service to others. He lived by three mottos: "To Make The Best Better," "That I May Serve,” and "Service Above Self.” These three mottos for 4-H, Virginia Tech, and Rotary International, respectively, summarize his selfless commitment to serving others.

Skelton devoted nearly 70 years to serving Virginia Tech and the surrounding community in various roles, including volunteer fundraiser, reunion organizer, leadership board member, and campaign chair. He led the effort to build an alumni conference center at Virginia Tech, serving as chair of a committee that oversaw the planning, design, and fundraising for the $45 million center, which included an attached hotel. The complex was named the Inn at Virginia Tech and Skelton Conference Center, to recognize the tremendous service to the university by Skelton and his wife Margaret.

Skelton grew up on his family's tobacco farm in Dinwiddie County. He enrolled in the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets in 1936 and worked his way through college, graduating in 1940, with a bachelor’s of science in agricultural engineering.

Skelton began his career in Virginia Cooperative Extension as a 4-H agent in Appomattox, Va. He served in World War II as a United States Army officer in Trinidad and in the African and Italian theaters, retiring as a lieutenant colonel. After the war, Skelton earned his master's and doctorate in educational administration at Cornell University.

Skelton was a former dean of the Extension division at Virginia Tech who began his career at the university as director of 4-H programs and Virginia Cooperative Extension. After his 40 years of outstanding volunteer service to the Smith Mountain Lake 4-H Educational Conference Center, the center was renamed in Skelton’s honor in 2004.

In 2008, Skelton was presented the Council for Advancement and Support of Education’s Ernest T. Stewart Award for Alumni Volunteer Involvement. This award is the highest honor that the council gives to an alumni volunteer.

Skelton was also known worldwide for his leadership in Rotary International. He served as club president, district governor, president of Rotary International, and had numerous international leadership assignments. He was honored for his role in helping to launch PolioPlus, Rotary’s massive project in support of the worldwide eradication of polio.

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