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Chuck Taylor steps down after 34 years as department head

July 17, 2017

left to right: Carol Ann Sumichrast, Garrett Weddle, Chuck Taylor
Chuck Taylor (right) chats with Carol Ann Sumichrast, wife of Pamplin Dean Robert Sumichrast, and Garrett Weddle, of the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute, at a Pamplin event.

Bernard W. (Chuck) Taylor has stepped down as head of the Department of Business Information Technology in the Pamplin College of Business, a department he had led since 1983.

Taylor will return to the faculty in the fall to teach courses in management science.

“After 34 years, I probably should have run myself out a lot sooner,” Taylor said jovially.

Over the course of his career as department head, Taylor has overseen many changes, most notably, developing what was then a nondegree program into a successful major.

Taylor said the department enrolled about 20 students in 1984, the management science major’s inaugural year. Now known as business information technology, the major is the largest in the college, with more than 1,000 students, Taylor said.

“We graduated between 200 and 300 students at spring commencement, and we have some of the best employment statistics across the university," Taylor said.

Advancements in technology and access to computers have spurred much of the change in the program.

 “We were the only department in the college that required extensive computing assignments,” Taylor said, recalling his early years on campus. "Computing back then was not something you did easily.”

Students camped out at night on the first floor of Burruss Hall, waiting in queue with key punch cards to run programs on the university’s mainframe computer, said Taylor, who was typically on campus late at night, debugging programs with his students. The mainframe computer was used exclusively for university operations during the day and off limits to students until nighttime.

Today, personal computers make it possible for students to submit work remotely and to work much more quickly and efficiently. Faculty also can work remotely from home, and the downside to that, for Taylor, is less personal interaction with colleagues whom he used to encounter in the corridors of Pamplin Hall every day.

“Every one of our faculty, I have had a hand in hiring,” Taylor said. “I could not have done this for this long if it had not been for the faculty and their support. They are not just my colleagues; they are my friends.”

Taylor joined the faculty as an assistant professor in 1975. He received a Ph.D. and an MBA from the University of Georgia. He was promoted to associate professor in 1978 and professor in 1981 and named the R.B. Pamplin Professor of Management Science in 1987.

To honor Taylor, an endowed scholarship fund has been established in his name, with a $100,000 pledge from an anonymous donor. The scholarship will be awarded to an eligible junior or senior student majoring in business information technology.

Relieved of the year-round responsibilities as department head, Taylor looks forward to spending more time traveling with his wife to visit their daughters and grandsons.

He is succeeded by Roberta Russell, with whom he has worked closely over the years, first as her doctoral advisor and later as her co-author on a textbook. He and Russell will work together on the transition over the next year.

“The major is strongly positioned ... there is no reason that won’t continue,” Taylor said.

Written by Courtney Cutright

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