Vice President for Student Affairs Edward F.D. Spencer has announced his retirement, planned for the end of June 2012, after almost 30 years at Virginia Tech.
During his nearly 42 years in student affairs, Spencer has regularly advised students to listen to their hearts, based on his own experiences and career path. Despite entering medical school and originally planning a career in medicine, Spencer quickly realized that his true calling was working with college students. Spencer has demonstrated his dedication to students throughout his career. “I was at an event recently where a student introduced me as the ‘students’ vice president,’” Spencer said. “And that’s what I should be.”
“Dr. Spencer has had a long and distinguished career at Virginia Tech. He will be greatly missed by all of his colleagues, but more importantly by the Virginia Tech students — past, present, and those who will join the Hokie Nation in the future,” said University President Charles W. Steger. “Ed’s agenda every day is what is best for our students, giving them the richest possible Virginia Tech experience. Students for years to come will greatly benefit from the many outstanding programs he has helped establish. We wish him nothing but the best in whatever future paths he chooses to explore.”
Spencer arrived at Virginia Tech in January of 1983, when he was named director of housing and residence life. Following that, he continued his work in student affairs as director of residential and dining programs, assistant vice president for student affairs, associate vice president for student affairs, and finally vice president for student affairs.
As vice president, Spencer provides leadership and oversight to the 15 departments in the Division of Student Affairs, which encompasses the Campus Alcohol Abuse Prevention Center, Career Services, Cook Counseling Center, Corps of Cadets, Cranwell International Center, Dean of Students Office, Dining Services, Fraternity and Sorority Life, Housing and Residence Life, Multicultural Programs and Services, Recreational Sports, Schiffert Health Center, Services for Students with Disabilities, Student Centers and Activities, and Student Conduct.
“Throughout his tenure at Virginia Tech, Ed Spencer has provided extraordinary vision and leadership for the departments he has overseen,” said Mark McNamee, senior vice president and provost. “While his daily presence on campus will be deeply missed, the direction he has given the facilities, programs, and services for our students and the significant impact he has had on all areas of student life will leave a lasting legacy.”
A significant accomplishment under Spencer’s leadership has been the total transformation of Virginia Tech’s dining program. Following a charge from university president James McComas to turn around the campus dining program, Spencer led the effort to build one of the top programs in the nation. Today, Dining Services serves well over 6 million meals a year and has garnered numerous accolades including top-three rankings for best campus food from the Princeton Review for the past seven years, the prestigious Ivy Award from Restaurants and Institutions magazine in 2009, and many more awards and honors for menus, chefs, and events. Spencer credits the success of the program to the talented and dedicated staff.
Some other highlights of Spencer’s tenure at Virginia Tech include
- Overseeing the addition of all four phases of the Oak Lane Greek housing community;
- Introducing living-learning communities and co-ed halls to the residential program;
- Kicking off of a major multiyear renovation program for the aging halls on campus;
- Creating an independent Fraternity and Sorority Life office, which had previously been part of Student Activities;
- Separating Student Conduct from the Dean of Students Office in order to delineate discipline from advocacy;
- Improving the resident advisor experience with benefits such as single rooms;
- Adding live-in professional staff to the residence halls;
- Creating of the “VP Is In” program in cooperation with the Student Government Association, which invites students to come meet with Spencer to ask one-on-one questions, voice their concerns, and make suggestions;
- Establishing and opening Virginia Tech’s first residential college; and
- Serving on the Care Team and the first Threat Assessment Team.
In addition to his work in the Division of Student Affairs, Spencer has served as an associate professor of higher education since 1996. He is also known for various professional publications and presentations, which in recent years have focused on the nature of today’s college students and tragedy and recovery at Virginia Tech. He has also taught several college courses, including his most recent graduate course, The American College Student and the College Environment.
His numerous awards include the Pillar of the Profession and the Dissertation of the Year awards from the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators; the first Zenobia Lawrence Hikes Leadership Award from the Virginia Tech Student Government Association; and Most Outstanding Faculty Advisor, Most Outstanding Chapter Advisor, the Order of Constantine, and the Significant Sig Award from the Sigma Chi International Fraternity. Additionally, the Spencer Award, given annually to Virginia Tech’s Fraternity Advisor of the Year, is named in his honor.
Prior to joining Virginia Tech, Spencer spent 13 years working in student affairs at the University of Delaware, where he also earned an master's degree and a Ph.D. in social psychology. He holds a master's degree in student personnel administration in higher education from Syracuse University and a bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of Rochester. He is also a graduate of Harvard University’s Management Development Program.
Spencer, husband of the late Norrine Bailey Spencer, resides in Blacksburg and has one son, Andrew, a daughter-in-law, Melanie, and two grandchildren, Courtney and Brandon.
Following retirement, Spencer says he plans to spend more time with his grandchildren and volunteering, consulting, and traveling. He also plans to return to involvement with his fraternity, Sigma Chi, on a national level and hopes to catch up on reading and home projects.
Spencer plans to maintain a connection to the university and community. “There is such a good spirit within the university and larger community. This was particularly evident after April 16, when the world got to see what we appreciate on a daily basis — a strong, supportive, and beautiful community. I stayed here so long because of the nature of the people — the students, faculty, staff, alumni, and the community. There is a special bond here. It is a wonderful place to work and to retire.”
A national search for the next vice president for student affairs will be conducted during spring 2012.