Alumnus Robert Lewis Turner of Blacksburg – an architect who designed multiple buildings abroad for Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and, later, in his own practice – will receive Virginia Tech’s University Distinguished Achievement Award for 2014.

The award recognizes nationally distinguished achievements in any field of enduring significance to society. It is presented at University Commencement each year.

A native of Martinsville, Turner earned his bachelor’s in architecture in 1972 and began his career as an assistant to the noted architectural photographer Ezra Stoller. He later joined Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, also known as SOM, one of the world’s largest architectural firms.

His projects at SOM included the Arab International Bank and World Trade Center, in Cairo; the Lucky Goldstar Headquarters, in Seoul, South Korea; the master plan for the Canary Wharf Development, in London; the European headquarters for Texaco, in London; the Sun Life Insurance Headquarters, in Bristol, England; and the Utopia Pavilion, part of the 1998 Lisbon World Exposition, in Lisbon, Portugal.

Turner, who was elected a design partner at SOM in 1984, retired from the firm in 1997. He continued to work, running a one-man practice in Paris, and designed and completed office buildings in Paris and private residences in Sri Lanka and on the Greek Island of Corfu. After living 15 years in Paris, he returned to live in the United States.

Turner has stressed the importance of international experience for architects. He established a scholarship in his alma mater’s School of Architecture + Design that every other year sends a student to a summer program at Fontainebleau, a UNESCO world heritage site near Paris. He has also supported a new program for students to study in Cairo.

Turner’s support of Virginia Tech has also included serving on the Advisory Council of the College of Architecture and Urban Studies. He is a member of the Ut Prosim Society, a select group of the university’s most generous supporters, and of the Legacy Society, a distinction for those who include the university in their estate plans or make other planned gifts that will come to the university at a later date.

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.

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