At last year’s homecoming game 67,000 Hokie football fans cheered Stanley Cohen when he was brought on the field with the flight crew after having arranged the pregame flyover of a World War II B-25 Mitchell bomber. But within the College of Engineering, the Corps of Cadets, and the Department of Athletics, Cohen has been appreciated for far longer.
“You know, I’ve had a tremendous amount of love for Virginia Tech,” said Cohen, who earned his bachelor’s in architectural engineering in 1949 and master’s in civil engineering in 1951.
“I have [created] two scholarships at Virginia Tech – one in the civil engineering department that I began in 1979, and another, which is an Emerging Leader Scholarship, in the cadet corps.”
He also has been a generous supporter of Virginia Tech sports for many years, to the degree that he and his wife, Frances, are considered Golden Hokies. The couple, who live just outside Cincinnati, Ohio, are also charter members of the Ut Prosim Society, a select group of Virginia Tech’s most generous donors. Cohen also is a charter member of the Committee of 100 distinguished alumni of the College of Engineering.
A graduate of Woodrow Wilson High School in Portsmouth, Va., Cohen was an unusually driven student at Virginia Tech, taking classes in as many aspects of engineering as he could fit into a busy schedule.
While enrolled, he was inducted into two honor societies – architectural engineering’s Phi Kappa Phi and civil engineering’s Tau Beta Pi – and he completed his master’s degree while also working as a line and grade engineer for the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission.
After earning his graduate degree, Cohen moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, where he worked 27 years as chief engineer and field manager with a major construction firm. He started his own company, Stanley Enterprises, in 1978. The firm designed and built buildings in 15 states before Cohen became semi-retired in 1993. In 1999, he was inducted into the Academy of Distinguished Alumni of the Charles E. Via Jr. Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.
“There was a time when I was a registered professional engineer in nine states, and I’m still licensed in about six,” Cohen said.
He attributes some of his success to the fact that he was able to learn about a variety of types of engineering while at Virginia Tech.
“I took courses in steam power engineering, sanitary engineering, anything I could fit into my program,” Cohen said. “I can’t even remember the names of all of them.”
Having a broad knowledge of the field helped a great deal once he was out in the workforce working on complex projects that required engineering of various types, he explained. Like many successful alumni who capitalized on opportunities afforded them by their education, Cohen gives back by helping today’s students. He does so not just at Virginia Tech, but at his wife’s alma mater, the University of Cincinnati, which has a Frances and Stanley Cohen Scholarship in Design and Graphics. The Cohens are highly active volunteers and donors for several other Cincinnati area organizations as well, including the Taft Museum and the Tri-State Warbird Museum.
In fact, it was Cohen’s association with the latter that enabled him to arrange the flyover at Lane Stadium -- the first by a plane from World War II. Cohen serves on the museum’s advisory board and paid the fuel cost and other expenses for the plane’s journey.
“Nobody had ever brought a World War II airplane down here and we thought we could [come and] rattle a few windows,” Cohen said, later adding: “I just felt like this [flyover] would be a really great thing to do.”
Judging from the cheers the plane elicited that day, many thousands agreed. And they no doubt would be happy to learn that Cohen, and the Tri-State Warbird Museum flight crew, plan to return to Blacksburg for many years to come.