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Former engineering dean and Virginia Tech president Paul Torgersen to deliver distinguished lecture


BLACKSBURG, Va., Oct. 13, 2009 – Paul Torgersen, former president of Virginia Tech and dean of the College of Engineering from 1970 until 1990, will deliver the Vecellio Distinguished Lecture at 4 p.m. Oct. 16 at the campus building named in his honor, Torgersen Hall.

The talk will focus on the College of Engineering’s longtime yet ground-breaking initiative to require freshmen students to purchase a personal laptop computer. Virginia Tech was the first public university in the nation to make such a demand on its engineering students.

The tongue-in-cheek title of the lecture, “The Virginia Tech Personal Computer Initiative or Walking Two Miles in the Snow to Catch the School Bus” refers to that first required “portable” 1984 IBM computer that weighed more than 40 pounds and had a whopping 256K of memory and a 9-inch amber monochrome monitor. Current standards, of course, have evolved with technology. Students now must purchase a tablet PC.

The lecture will take place at 2150 Torgersen Hall. There is no charge.

As Virginia Tech’s president from 1993 to 2000, Torgersen spearheaded a turnaround in the university’s financial resource base. He also guided Virginia Tech to international leadership in information technology, while focusing on his vision of Virginia Tech becoming the model land-grant university of the 21st century.

He retired in 2000 with 33 years of service to the university, which included positions of professor and department head of industrial systems engineering, dean of the College of Engineering, interim president of the university (twice), and interim vice president for development and university relations. Regardless of his position, he taught at least one class each semester throughout his tenure.

Today, Torgersen retains the title of John Hancock Chair and Professor Industrial and Systems Engineering and teaches part time. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering. The Vecellio Distinguished Lecture Series is sponsored by a $1 million endowment provided for the Construction Engineering and Management Program in Virginia Tech’s Via Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering by the Vecellio Family Foundation and individual family members: the late Mrs. Leo (Evelyn) Vecellio Sr.; Leo and Kathryn Vecellio Jr. and their sons, Christopher and Michael; and Patricia Vecellio.

Leo Vecellio Sr. was a 1938 civil engineering graduate of Virginia Tech who became president and CEO of Vecellio & Grogan, one of the largest highway construction and mining companies in the eastern United States. Leo Vecellio Jr., a 1968 Virginia Tech civil engineering graduate, is now head of Vecellio & Grogan Inc. and its subsidiaries.

The Vecellio endowment at Virginia Tech also supports scholarships, fellowships, and a professorship.