Return to Skip Menu

Main Content

University Distinguished Achievement Award

The Virginia Tech Board of Visitors reauthorized the University Distinguished Achievement Award under that designation on March 22, 1982. The award previously had been identified as the University Distinguished Alumni Citation. In reauthorizing the award -- a specially designed medal -- the board stipulated that nominees should meet the following criteria:

  • Nationally distinguished achievement, personal and/or professional, in any field of endeavor of enduring significance and value to the society.
  • An identifiable and appropriate relationship with this university, so that presentation of the award would reflect favorably both on the award recipient and the institution.

No individual affiliated with Virginia Tech as a student, faculty or staff member, administrator, or trustee or anyone in a similar capacity would be eligible for the University Distinguished Achievement Award. Individuals affiliated with the university in any of these capacities would remain ineligible for at least 12 months after ending such affiliation. While it would appear that most persons selected for the award should be alumni or alumnae or previously would have had some faculty, staff, or trustee relationship with the university, having such a relationship with the university would not preclude presentation of the award to a commencement speaker, visiting scholar, public official, or individuals with other such relationships. The potential recipients of the University Distinguished Achievement Award would not necessarily have had the same close association with the institution as is required for the William H. Ruffner Medal.

Recipients of the University Distinguished Achievement Award

2015 – William Lewis Jr. - alumnus and the university’s first Rhodes Scholar; retired partner of McKinsey & Company; held policy-making positions in the U.S. Department of Defense; former acting secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy; advisor to the College of Science and the University Honors program; serves on the advisory board for the Department of Physics; member of the inaugural class of the College of Science Hall of Distinction.

2014 - Robert Lewis Turner - alumnus and an architect who designed multiple buildings abroad for Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and later in his own practice; served on the Advisory Council of the College of Architecture and Urban Studies; member of the Ut Prosim Society and the Legacy Society.

2013 - Tracy Wilkins - emeritus member of Virginia Tech's faculty, former university leader, and co-founder of the TechLab company

2012 - Joseph R. Loring - alumnus; U.S. Army Reserves, established Joseph R. Loring & Associates Inc. engineering firm, member of the Ut Prosim Society, funded a scholarship in his company's name, served on the Bradley Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering Advisory Board and the College of Engineering Advisory Board, member of the college's Committee of 100

2011 - Betty P. Chao - alumna; earned her doctorate in industrial and systems engineering; established Westech in 1994 as a one-person consulting business, it now employs 300 people across 14 states.

2010 - Gen. Lance Smith - alumnus; retired from the U.S. Air Force; served as commander of U.S. Joint Forces Command, and as NATO's supreme allied commander for transformation; serves on the executive committee of the Virginia Tech Alumni Association; the executive board of the North Carolina Military Foundation; and the board of directors for Rylex Consulting.

2009 - Henry Long - alumnus; retired from the U.S. Air Force; co-founder of the Long and Foster real estate firm; active in the "Campaign for Virginia Tech: Invent the Future."

2008 - Gene James - alumnus; retired from Southern States Cooperative as president and chief executive officer; has served on the Virginia Tech Foundation Board of Directors and the Virginia Tech Alumni Board of Directors; and is a member of the Ut Prosim Society.

2007 - Homer Hickam - alumnus; U.S. Army veteran; retired NASA engineer; popular author; active supporter of the university, member of the Caldwell Society.

2005 - William H. Goodwin Jr. - alumnus; Chairman of the Board of CCA Industries Inc, a diversified holding company; and provider of philanthropic support to many non-profit organizations.

2004 - Major General Archie S. Cannon Jr. - class of '50; retired as deputy chief of staff for personnel for the U.S. Army Europe and Seventh Army.

2003 - James Gills - alumnus; received medical degree from Duke University Medical School; completed his residency at Johns Hopkins; served as assistant professor of ophthalmology at Duke; founder and director of St. Luke's Cataract and Laser Institute in Florida.

2002 - William E. Jamerson - alumnus; active participant and supporter of the university since his graduation, sharing in the progress of many initiatives in athletics, building construction, and Center for European Studies and Architecture; 1990 recipient of the Alumni Distinguished Service Award, a Lifetime Golden Hokie; a member of the Bowman Society; an Ut Prosim Senior Benefactor; a contributor to Habitat for Humanity, Appomattox High School, and the Patrick Henry Boys and Girls Plantation.

2001 - Charles M. Forbes - alumnus; fundraiser for the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center; vice president for development and university relations at Virginia Tech who increased annual gifts to a new level, reorganized and enlarged the development team to support the entire university, and impacted the development of the Corporate Research Center and the Virginia/Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine.

2000 - George C. (Jack) Guynn - alumnus, president and chief executive officer of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.

1999 - John H. Chichester - alumnus, member of the Republican Party in the Senate of Virginia, co-chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, chairman of the Commission on the Future of Higher Education in Virginia (1994-96), friend to higher education.

1998 - Roger K. Crouch - alumnus, visiting scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, astronaut aboard the March 1997 flight of the United States Space Shuttle Columbia, exemplary contributor to the United States space program, recipient of the 1992 Superior Accomplishment Award and the 1995 NASA Exceptional Achievement Medal.

1997 - William H. Daughtrey Jr. - alumnus; founder, president, and CEO of Princeton Associates, member of the Virginia Tech Foundation Board of Directors and the College of Arts and Sciences Dean's Roundtable, chairman of the Richmond Regional Campaign of The Campaign for Virginia Tech, adjunct faculty member teaching an honors colloquium at Virginia Tech.

1996 - Sidney C. Smith Jr. - alumnus with a pre-eminent medical career who has made enduring contributions to humanity, member of the College of Engineering's Committee of 100, chief of cardiology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 1995-96 president of the American Heart Association.

1995 - Two Distinguished Achievement Awards to honor two distinguished faculty posthumously:

    Olivio Ferrari - served on Virginia Tech's faculty in the College of Architecture from 1965-1994, founded the college's Study Abroad Program, an Alumni Distinguished Professor, recipient of the 1990 national Distinguished Professor Award from the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture, a founder and director of the Virginia Tech European Studies Center in Riva San Vitale, Switzerland.

    Richard B. Talbot - helped the university plan and develop the Virginia/Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine, served as founding dean of the college until the first class was graduated in 1984, a researcher and teacher, director of the Office of New Animal Drug Evaluation at the U. S. Food and Drug Administration.

1994 - James E. Turner Jr. - alumnus; president of General Dynamics Electric Boat Division; a recognized expert in the area of defense industry conversion; a member of the Virginia Tech Foundation Board, the College of Engineering Advisory Board, and the Committee of 100.

1993 - Owen B. Pickett - alumnus, member of the U.S. House of Representatives, member of the Virginia House of Delegates, member of the Board of Visitors of the U. S. Military Academy.

1992 - Mary Virginia Jones - alumnae, director of design engineering at Atlantic Research Corp., former member of the Board of Visitors, president of the Virginia State Board of Professional Engineers, listed in Who's Who in American Engineering, member of the College of Engineering Committee of 100.

    (Special Citation - Greene Flake Laird)

1991 - Robert B. Delano - alumnus, retired president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, named one of the most influential national leaders by U.S. News & World Report in 1981.

    - John Grado Jr. - alumnus; owner, chairman, and CEO of Technographics, Inc.

1990 - Thomas C. Richards - alumnus, class of 1956, a four-star general previously serving as deputy commander in chief of the U.S. European Command, current member of a presidential commission to President George Bush.

1989 - Alexander F. Giacco - former rector of the Board of Visitors, former chief executive officer of Hercules, Inc., chief executive officer of Himont, Inc. and of Montedison, S.P.A.

    Special awards, formal resolutions by the Board of Visitors honoring Professor Emeritus John M. Barringer and the Reverend Alfred C. Payne for long and distinguished service of the University.

1988 - No award recommended.

1987 - (designated in 1986) Thomas L. Phillips - BS '47, chairman and CEO of the Raytheon Company.

    Special Award, a formal resolution by the Board of Visitors honoring Laura Jane Harper, dean emeritus of the College of Home Economics (now the College of Human Resources).

1986 - J. Kenneth Robinson - BS '37, businessman, former 7th District Congressman.

    Special award, a formal resolution by the Board of Visitors honoring Duncan Lyle Kinnear, professor emeritus, author of The First 100 Years - A History of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.

1985 - Charles H. Burchard - dean emeritus, College of Architecture and Urban Studies.

1984 - Clifford A. Cutchins III - BS '44, chairman and chief executive officer of Sovran Bank and Sovran Financial Corporation.

1983 - Clifton C. Garvin Jr. - BS '43, MS '47, chairman and chief executive officer of the Exxon Corp.