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Virginia Tech News / Articles / 2004 / 04 

Virginia Tech to hold Founders Day convocation

April 1, 2004

Virginia Tech will celebrate opening its doors for the 132nd year with its annual Founders Day celebration at 3 p.m. Friday, April 23, in the Donaldson Brown Hotel and Conference Center Auditorium.

First taking place in 1972, Founders Day Convocation is Virginia Tech's annual celebration of the academic and professional achievements of the university and recognizing service to Virginia Tech.

"We are pleased to celebrate the 132nd year of the university's founding," said Virginia Tech President Charles Steger. "Those who are being honored this year are some of Virginia Tech's best, brightest and finest."

The convocation ceremony will include a keynote address from U.S. Congressman Robert W. Goodlatte, five presentations of the university's most distinguished awards.

During the ceremony, the university will present its highest honor, The Ruffner Medal, to James E. Turner Jr., class of '56, retiree as president and CEO of General Dynamics Corporation, for performing notable and distinguished service to the university.

Gene E. James, J. Eugene Justice, and L. Preston Wade all will receive Alumni Distinguished Service Awards for outstanding service to the university. James, class of '53, is the retired president and CEO of Southern States Cooperative Inc. Justice, class of '54 retired in 1988 as vice-president of Systems and Product Management for IBM at the Paris headquarters and was the former deputy director of the Virginia Department of World Trade in Norfolk. Wade, class of '55, is chairman of the board and CEO of Wiley & Wilson.

The university also will honor Major General Archie S. Cannon Jr., class of '50, for nationally distinguished achievement in any field of enduring significance to society with the University Distinguished Achievement Award. Cannon retired as deputy chief of staff for personnel for the U.S. Army Europe and Seventh Army.

In his keynote address, Congressman Goodlatte will address the future of our region, the role of universities in advancing America's economic competitiveness, and the interrelationship with American agriculture. Goodlatte is in his sixth term representing the sixth congressional district of Virginia. He has made a name for himself in Congress as an expert on Internet and high-tech issues. He was chosen to serve as chairman of the House Agriculture Committee in January, becoming the first Agriculture Committee chairman from Virginia since 1947.

Turner's award is consistent with a long line of Ruffner Medal recipients since 1976 when the Board of Visitors authorized the William H. Ruffner Medal to provide appropriate public recognition to individuals who have performed notable and distinguished service to the university. The medal's name honors a member of the university's first board who was instrumental in shaping the curricula of the then fledgling college known as Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College. Ruffner also was Virginia's first state superintendent of public instruction.

Examples of notable and distinguished service of a recipient include:
Outstanding achievement in efforts devoted to the promotion, improvement, and development of the university's mission as a land-grant university.
Significant service on one or more of the official, informal, university related, or otherwise designated advisory, counseling, volunteer, or action groups serving the university.
Extraordinary interest in and support of the well-being of the university and its students, faculty, and staff in efforts to provide educational opportunities and research and public service programs on behalf of the citizens of the commonwealth and nation.

Since the university's opening on Oct. 1, 1872, Virginia Tech has helped to shape the future of generations of young men and women. In the 132 years since, the institution has evolved into the comprehensive land-grant university known today. For much of its history, the institution was rigidly restricted in educational mission; it remained a primarily technical, male, and military college until well after World War II. It was not until the 1960s that the university as we know it today began to emerge.

Virginia Tech is now a major research university with facilities throughout Virginia. The university has eight colleges, offering about 75 bachelor's degree programs and nearly 150 master's and doctoral degree programs. Its land-grant mission of teaching, research, and extension is served through agricultural research and extension centers, a public radio station, and graduate centers located throughout the commonwealth.

Not only has Virginia Tech influenced the future of its faculty and students, its graduates have, in turn, shaped the future of the commonwealth and the world as they strive to live the motto of their alma mater, Ut Prosim, "That I May Serve." Thousands of men and women have served the university and the commonwealth with great distinction and self-sacrifice. Faculty, staff, students, parents, friends, and trustees have helped create the heritage Virginia Tech proudly honors on Founders Day.