Return to Skip Menu

Main Content

In memoriam: Charles M. Forbes ’49, former vice president for development and university relations


BLACKSBURG, Va., March 9, 2012 – Charles M. Forbes -- Virginia Tech’s first vice president for development and university relations, who established fundraising as a major driver of new initiatives at his alma mater -- died March 7 in Wilmington, Del. He was 84.

The Class of 2012 selected Charles M. Forbes as its ring collection namesake

Forbes was the architect of The Campaign for Excellence, Virginia Tech’s first national fundraising campaign, which generated $118 million and helped increase the value of assets held by the Virginia Tech Foundation from less than $8 million to more than $123 million.

He earned his bachelor’s of industrial engineering and operations research in 1949. After working as an engineer for DuPont, Forbes entered the fundraising and communications business.

"Charlie Forbes had an infectious passion for improving his alma mater, and he was a master at sharing that with our alumni and friends," Virginia Tech President Charles W. Steger said. "During his time here, philanthropy truly became a major driver of our success. Whether it was helping to ensure our financial security by increasing the Virginia Tech Foundation endowment, or helping to finance new initiatives, Charlie made great things happen. We will miss him a great deal."

Forbes was vice president for development and public affairs for the Memorial-Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York before Virginia Tech President William Lavery convinced Forbes to return to his alma mater in 1979. In 1983, the university launched The Campaign for Excellence, which raised more than double its $50 million goal.

“Charlie Forbes was the architect of national fundraising at Virginia Tech,” said the university’s current vice president for development and university relations, Elizabeth “Betsy” Flanagan. “All of us who knew him will miss him, and he left an unforgettable legacy at this institution.”

Forbes served as vice president until 1992, when he became vice president for development and alumni relations at the University of Delaware. In that position, he oversaw four campaigns for individual building projects. Those campaigns raised more than $36 million combined. Forbes retired in 1996.

During his tenure at Virginia Tech, major new initiatives for which he oversaw fundraising included the public radio station WVTF, the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center. Forbes also was the driving force in creating the Ut Prosim Society and the William Preston Society, which recognize extraordinary support of and service to Virginia Tech.

His own extraordinary service was recognized in 2001, during University Commencement, when he was presented Virginia Tech’s University Distinguished Achievement Award.

The burial will be private. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorials be made to the Charles M. Forbes Fellowship at Virginia Tech and mailed to the Virginia Tech Foundation, 902 Prices Fork Road, Blacksburg, VA 24060 or Delaware Hospice and mailed to 3515 Silverside Road, Wilmington, DE 19810.

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.