The 2013 recipient of Virginia Tech's highest honor, the William H. Ruffner Medal, is Michele "Shelley" Duke of Middleburg, Va., who is being recognized for the substantial difference she has made to the university through her volunteer service and support.
Duke, who owns and operates Rallywood Farm in her adopted hometown, was the first female vice-rector on the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors. She is the second woman to win the Ruffner Medal, which was established in 1976 and was issued in 1979 to Lucy Lee Lancaster. The medal is presented at University Commencement each spring.
In two terms on the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors, Duke served on its executive, academic affairs, research, nominating, and by-laws committees. Her relationship with Virginia Tech spans more than 20 years and started when she began volunteering for and donating to the Marion DuPont Scott Equine Medical Center, located in Leesburg and part of the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine.
Duke has been director of the center's volunteer program and chair of the Equine Medical Center Council. Along with her husband, Philip, she is a member of the Ut Prosim Society, a recognition for the university's most generous donors, and the Legacy Society of those who include the university in their estate plans or make deferred gifts that will come to the university in the future.
The Virginia Tech-related boards or committees on which Duke has served also include the Virginia Tech Foundation Board of Directors, the National Campaign Steering Committee for the university's past fundraising campaign, the Women in Leadership and Philanthropy Council, the Middleburg Agricultural Research Extension Center board, the Olivio Ferrari Foundation Board of Directors, and the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine Dean's Advisory Council.
Duke is a native Californian whose career history includes serving as principal of J.A. Sanford and Company in San Francisco, and Shearson Hayden Stone Inc. (now part of Morgan Stanley) in Southfield, Mich.
Virginia Tech is only one of many organizations to benefit from Duke's volunteer service and leadership. She is a past president of the University of California at San Francisco Board of Directors and served on the boards for San Francisco Suicide Prevention and the United Way of the Bay Area. Her dedication to the San Francisco community led to her being named a volunteer of the year by the United Bay Area Crusade. Her volunteer activity in Orlando, Fla., includes serving as vice president and treasurer for the Human Resources Council and as treasurer for the Junior League.
Duke was named an honorary alumna by the Virginia Tech Alumni Association in 2005 – a distinction fewer than 15 people have received. In 2009, she delivered the address for the university's National Capital Region Commencement.
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 240 undergraduate and graduate degree programs to more than 31,000 students and manages a research portfolio of $513 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.