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University Commencement speakers (1873 to 2011)


BLACKSBURG, Va., Nov. 28, 2011 – The following individuals delivered the University Commencement address at Virginia Tech (dating back to 1873):

2011: Kenneth R. Feinberg, attorney, special master of the federal Sept. 11 Victim Compensation Fund, and administrator for the Hokie Spirit Memorial Fund (spring): Listen | Watch; Edward F.D. Spencer, vice president for student affairs, Virginia Tech (fall) Read | Watch.

2010: Robert F. McDonnell, governor, Commonwealth of Virginia (spring): Listen | Watch; Jacqueline Bixler, Alumni Distinguished Professor of Spanish in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences (fall): Listen | Watch

2009: Gen. Lance L. Smith, Retired United States Air Force General and Pamplin College of Business alumnus who served as the commander, U.S. Joint Forces Command, Norfolk, Va., and NATO Supreme Allied Commander for Transformation from 2005 to 2007 (spring); Rosemary Blieszner, Alumni Distinguished Professor of Human Development, associate director of the Center for Gerontology, and associate dean of the Graduate School at Virginia Tech (fall): Listen | Watch

2008: Hoda Kotb, NBC News anchor and Virginia Tech alumna (spring): Listen | Watch; Gary Downey, Alumni Distinguished Professor in the Department of Science and Technology in Society in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences (fall): Watch.

2007: John Philip Abizaid, retired U.S. Army general, former Commander of the United States Central Command (spring); E. Scott Geller, Alumni Distinguished Professor and Director of the Center for Applied Behavior Systems in the Department of Psychology in the College of Science (fall).

2006: Timothy M. Kaine, governor, Commonwealth of Virginia (spring); Henry J. Dekker, retired founder and president of North American operations for French couturier Louis Feraud, and past member of the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors (fall).

2005: David Calhoun, president and CEO of GE Transportation Systems(spring); Minnis E. Ridenour, former executive vice president and chief operating officer at Virginia Tech and Senior Fellow and director of the Office of Government and Non-Profit Organization Management, Virginia Tech (fall).

2004: Pierre Thomas, ABC News U.S. Justice Department correspondent and 1984 graduate of Virginia Tech (spring); Diane Zahm, associate professor of urban affairs and planning in the College of Architecture and Urban Studies, Virginia Tech (fall).

2003: The Hon. Leroy Rountree Hassell Sr., chief justice, Virginia Supreme Court (spring); Ezra A. "Bud" Brown, professor of mathematics, Virginia Tech (fall).

2002: Mark R. Warner, governor, Commonwealth of Virginia (spring); Dr. L.A. "Andy" Swiger, dean, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Virginia Tech (fall).

2001: The Hon. Rick Boucher, congressman, U.S. House of Representatives (spring); Dr. Charles J. Dudley, professor of sociology and director of the University Honors Program, Virginia Tech (fall).

2000: The Hon. John W. Warner, senator, Commonwealth of Virginia (spring); Arthur L. Buikema Jr., Alumni Distinguished Professor, Department of Biology, Virginia Tech (fall).

1999: Eric Schmidt, chairman and chief executive officer, Novell Inc. (spring); Paul E. Torgersen, president, Virginia Tech, and John W. Hancock Jr., Chair of Engineering (fall).

1998: James S. Gilmore III, governor, Commonwealth of Virginia (spring); James R. Craig, professor of geological sciences, Virginia Tech (fall).

1997: Raymond J. Lane, president and chief operating officer, Oracle Corporation (spring); Charles "Jack" Dudley, director, University Honors Program, Virginia Tech (fall).

1996: John Wilson, retired president, Washington and Lee University (spring); Lucinda Roy, Gloria D. Smith Professor of Black Studies, Virginia Tech (fall).

1995: Beverly H. Sgro, secretary of education, Commonwealth of Virginia (spring); James I. "Bud" Robertson Jr., Alumni Distinguished Professor of History, Virginia Tech (fall).

1994: George F. Allen, governor, Commonwealth of Virginia (spring); Paul Antonie "Tony" Distler, Alumni Distinguished Professor and director of the Division of Performing Arts, Virginia Tech (fall).

1993: John M. Ashworth, director, London School of Economics and Political Science (spring); John Kelly, registrar (provost), University College Dublin (Ireland) (fall).

1992: Jack Nelson, Washington Bureau chief, Los Angeles Times (spring); Samuel D. Proctor, professor emeritus, Rutgers University and pastor emeritus, Abyssinian Baptist Church of New York (fall).

1991: Shaikh Saud Nasir Al-Sabah, ambassador to Kuwait (spring); W. Ann Reynolds, chancellor, City University of New York (fall).

1990: L. Douglas Wilder, governor, Commonwealth of Virginia (spring); Mark O. Hatfield, U.S. senator (fall).

1989: Mary Sue Terry, attorney general, Commonwealth of Virginia.

1988: David Roselle, president, University of Kentucky.

1987: Gerald Baliles, governor, Commonwealth of Virginia.

1986: Neil Armstrong, astronaut.

1985: Alexander F. Giacco, rector, Virginia Tech Board of Visitors and chairman of the board, Hercules Inc.

1984: Charles Robb, governor, Commonwealth of Virginia.

1983: Clifton C. Garvin, Jr., chairman of the board, Exxon Corp. (and Virginia Tech alumnus).

1982: Christopher C. Kraft Jr., director, Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center (and Virginia Tech alumnus).

1981: William E. Lavery, president, Virginia Tech.

1980: Jean Harris, secretary of human resources, Commonwealth of Virginia.

1979: Eric Severied, CBS News Correspondent.

1978: John N. Dalton, governor, Commonwealth of Virginia.

1977: Milton Friedman, recipient of the 1976 Nobel Prize in economics.

1976: E. F. Shannon, former president, University of Virginia.

1975: Sam J. Ervin, former N.C. senator.

1974: G. Burke Johnston, C. P. Miles Professor of English, Virginia Tech.

1973: Bill Moyers, former press secretary to President L. B. Johnson.

1972: David Brinkley, NBC news correspondent.

1971: Linwood Holton, governor, Commonwealth of Virginia.

1970: T. Marshall Hahn, president, Virginia Tech.

1969: Warren W. Brandt, first president of Virginia Commonwealth University and former executive vice president, Virginia Tech.

1968: T. Marshall Hahn, president, Virginia Tech.

1967: Mills E. Godwin, governor, Commonwealth of Virginia.

1966: T. Marshall Hahn, president, Virginia Tech.

1965: Albertis S. Harrison, governor, Commonwealth of Virginia.

1964: J. G. Farrar, president, Rockefeller Foundation.

1963: Mills E. Goodwin, lieutenant governor, Commonwealth of Virginia.

1962: Colgate W. Darden, former governor, Commonwealth of Virginia.

1961: John M. Devine, commandant of cadets, Virginia Tech.

1960: Albertis S. Harrison, attorney general, Commonwealth of Virginia.

1959: John N. Thomas, professor of systematic theology, Union Theological Seminary.

1958: Paul N. Garber, bishop of Virginia Methodist Conference, and J. Manning Potts, editor of The Upper Room

1957: Irwin Stewart, president of West Virginia University

1956: Virginius Dabney, editor of Richmond Times-Dispatch

1955: Gov. Thomas B. Stanley

1954: Elmer L. Kayser, dean of George Washington University

1953: Clem D. Johnston, vice president of U.S. Chamber of Commerce

1952: W.S. Newman ‘19, Virginia Polytechnic Institute president (Note: Virginia Tech was formerly known as Virginia Polytechnic Institute from 1896 to 1970. The name of the university officially became Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University on July 1, 1970.)

1951: Graham Claytor ‘06, operating executive of American Gas and Electric

1950: W.S. Newman ‘19, Virginia Polytechnic Institute president

1949: Edward McCrady, biologist, Atomic Energy Commission

1948: Louis V. Sutton ‘10, president of Carolina Light and Power

1947: Gen. James A. Anderson, Virginia State Highway Commission

1946: (Sept.), D.H. Pletta, professor of applied mechanics

1946: (May), W.S. Newman ‘19, Virginia Polytechnic Institute vice-president

1945: (Dec.), M.C. Harrison, head of English at Virginia Polytechnic Institute

1945: (Sept.), Col. R.B.H. Begg ‘99, head of civil engineering at Virginia Polytechnic Institute

1945: (May), Roy J. Holden, head of geology at Virginia Polytechnic Institute

1945: (March), H.L. Price, Virginia Polytechnic Institute dean of agriculture

1944: (Sept.), W.C. Yang, president of Soochow University, China

1944: (May), John W. Whittemore, associate dean of engineering and head of ceramic engineering at Virginia Polytechnic Institute

1944: (March), Walter Rautenstrauch, professor of industrial engineering, Columbia University

1943: (May), Paul H. Farrier, associate professor of English at Virginia Polytechnic Institute

1943: (March), R.H. McNeil, Virginia Polytechnic Institute director of public relations

1942: (Dec.), P.H. McGauhey, professor of sanitary engineering at Virginia Polytechnic Institute

1942: (Sept.), T.W. Knote, head of business administration at Virginia Polytechnic Institute

1942: (June), Julian A. Burruss, Virginia Polytechnic Institute president

1942: (March), E.B. Norris, Virginia Polytechnic Institute dean of engineering

1941: Kendall Weisiger ‘99, vice-president, American Telephone and Telegraph

1940: Julian A. Burruss ‘19, Virginia Polytechnic Institute president

1939: Allen A. Stockdale, National Association of Manufacturers

1938: William E. Dodd ‘95, ambassador to Germany

1937: Lt. Gov. James H. Price

1936: Gov. George C. Peery

1935: Ashton Dovell, member of Virginia House of Delegates

1934: J.D. Eggleston, president of Hampden-Sydney College

1933: Kendall Weisiger ‘99, assistant to president, Southern Bell Telephone

1932: J. Luther Johns ‘97, Chicago patent attorney

1931: J.G. Bohannon, chairman of Virginia Port Authority

1930: Col. James P. Woods, member of Virginia Polytechnic Institute Board of Visitors

1929: F. Donaldson Brown, vice president, General Motors Corporation

1928: J.P. Fishburn, president of Times-World Corporation, Roanoke

1927: Gov. Harry F. Byrd

1926: J. C. Metcalf, dean of University of Virginia graduate department

1925: R.B. Tunstall, president of Virginia Bar Association

1924: William T. Sanger, secretary, State Board of Education

1923: Harris Hart, state superintendent of public instruction

1922: William E. Dodd ‘95, University of Chicago professor

1921: Gov. Westmoreland Davis

1920: Col. LeRoy Hodges, governor’s aide

1919: Gov. Westmoreland Davis

1918: R. Holman Willis, member of General Assembly from Roanoke

1917: J.D. Eggleston, Virginia Polytechnic Institute president

1916: William H. Mann, former Virginia governor

1915: Walter R. Staples, Roanoke judge

1914: Gov. Henry C. Stuart

1913: Rosewell Page, second auditor of Virginia

1912: E.F. Swinney, Kansas City, Mo., banker and industrialist

1911: W.W. Kitchen, governor of North Carolina

1910: C.R. Davis, congressman from Minnesota

1909: Carter Glass, Virginia senator

1908: W.W. Finley, president of Southern Railway

1907: Carlton McCarthy, mayor of Richmond

1906: Gov. Claude A. Swanson

1905: C.A. Smith

1904: R.L. Edmonds, editor of Manufacturer’s Record

1903: A.C. Braxton of Staunton

1902: Gov. A.J. Montague

1901: Professor W.M. Thornton

1900: Peter J. Otey

1899: Professor Francis H. Smith, University of Virginia

1898: Sen. W.P. Barksdale of Halifax County

1897: George C. Cabell

1896: C.W. Dabney

1895 and 1894: Claude A. Swanson, later Virginia governor

1893: Judge Walter R. Staples

1892: Col. A.S. Buford

1890 - 1891: unknown

1889 and 1888: Thomas Whitehead, commissioner of agriculture

1887: Gov. Fitzhugh Lee

1886: Hon. Charles Triplett O’Ferrall, later Virginia governor

1885: Hon. Norman I. Coleman of Washington, D.C.

1884: Del. B.B. Mumford of Pittsylvania County (address before the literary societies)

1883: Gen. John Eaton of Washington, D.C. (address before the literary societies)

1880 - 1882: unknown

1879: C.A. Bohannon

1878: Professor John L. Buchanan, Emory and Henry College

1877: Robert Beverly of Fauquier

1876: Gen. James H. Williams of Winchester

1875: Col. Frank G. Ruffin

1874: Maj. Richard V. Gaines

1873: Gov. Gilbert C. Walker

Dedicated to its motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), Virginia Tech takes a hands-on, engaging approach to education, preparing scholars to be leaders in their fields and communities. As the commonwealth’s most comprehensive university and its leading research institution, Virginia Tech offers 225 undergraduate and graduate degree programs to more than 31,000 students and manages a research portfolio of $496 million. The university fulfills its land-grant mission of transforming knowledge to practice through technological leadership and by fueling economic growth and job creation locally, regionally, and across Virginia.