The Virginia Tech Faculty Entrepreneur Hall of Fame inducted its first class of honorees in a ceremony held during the 20th Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center annual banquet April 25.
From a pool of more than 50 nominees solicited from across the campus, six university faculty members were selected: Vinod Chachra, Richard Claus, Fred C. Lee, Arvid Myklebust, James Rancourt, and Tracy Wilkins.
“As faculty members, they have been accountable for making substantial contributions to three elements of the mission of Virginia Tech: teaching, research, and service,” said Robert Walters, vice president for research. “As entrepreneurs, they have taken their passions, dreams, time, and effort to create products and services to improve the quality of life for our citizens and for the interests of the nation. They have enhanced our local and regional economies and created high-quality jobs, particularly here in Southwest Virginia.”
Vinod Chachra, president and CEO of VTLS Inc., is an internationally recognized lecturer, consultant, and innovator in the field of information system planning. Chachra has served Virginia Tech in many capacities, from director of software development to director of computing and information systems to vice president for computing and information systems.
He was responsible for the creation of VTLS Inc., the first tenant of the Corporate Research Center. The company is an international leader in integrated library automation, digital imaging services and radio frequency identification technology, and provides state-of-the-art library automation systems to more than 1,800 libraries worldwide.
Richard O. Claus, founder and president of NanoSonic Inc., is a recognized expert in advanced materials and structures. NanoSonic was established in 1998 as a result of a spinoff of federally-funded research at Virginia Tech. The company got its start in a kitchen with two part-time employees.
Today, it has more than 70 employees and has as its customers NASA, defense contractors such as Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and Northrop Grumman, as well as major chemical suppliers, rubber industries, and electronic companies. Claus has won international awards for research from professional organizations and government agencies, including the Institute of Electronics and Electrical Engineers, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, the American Society of Civil Engineers, the Instrument Society of America, SPIE – The International Society for Optical Engineering, and NASA.
Fred C. Lee is a University Distinguished Professor and director of the Center for Power Electronics Systems, a National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center (NSF ERC). The center has been cited as a model ERC for its industrial collaboration and technology transfer, as well as education and outreach programs.
Lee has served as president of the IEEE Power Electronics Society, was a member of the board of directors for Zytec and Artesyn, and was chairman of the board for VPT Inc. He currently serves on the board of directors for Delta Electronics Inc.; Cyntec; and the Delta Environment and Education Foundation. Lee was named to the National Academy of Engineering in 2011.
James Rancourt is a professor of chemistry in the College of Science, and founder and CEO of Polymer Solutions Inc. (PSI), the industry’s premier independent testing lab. For the past 25 years, Rancourt has grown PSI through complementing his passion for helping others with his love of analytical chemistry, while building a team of brilliant scientists and support staff. PSI has given more than 55 presentations, has offered testimony in 60 trials, has 7 U.S. patents, and has 60 publications to its credit.
Arvid Myklebust is professor emeritus of mechanical engineering in the College of Engineering. His research expertise is in the fields of computer aided design, computer aided aircraft design, geometric curve and surface modeling, computer graphics standards, kinematic synthesis and dynamic response analysis of non-linear mechanical systems. Myklebust co-founded three companies at the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center: Phoenix Integration, AVID Aerospace, and Theta Tech Solutions.
Tracy D. Wilkins, an internationally recognized expert in anaerobic microbiology, served as faculty member and director of the Anaerobe Lab, was director of the Fralin Biotechnology Center (now Fralin Life Sciences Institute), and was the initial Stroobants Professor of Agricultural Biotechnology at Virginia Tech.
In 1989 he founded TECHLAB® Inc., a company focused on enteric disease and microbiology of the intestinal tract. Wilkins was also the founder of TransPharm, a company focused on the production of human proteins in the milk of transgenic animals. TransPharm eventually merged with PPL Therapeutics.
The Hall of Fame selection committee consisted of Richard Sorensen, dean of the Pamplin College of Business; Richard Benson, dean of the College of Engineering; Lay Nam Chang, dean of the College of Science; Paul Torgersen, former president of Virginia Tech; and Robert Walters, vice president for research.
“Establishing this Hall of Fame is one more step in our efforts to promote the acceptance and support of faculty entrepreneurship within the Virginia Tech culture,” said Walters.