Richard B. “Dick” Vasey, former assistant dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and professor emeritus of forestry, died April 1, 2018, at his home in California.
Vasey began his faculty career at Virginia Tech in 1970 as a forestry professor in the Division of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences within the College of Agriculture. In 1986, while continuing in his faculty role, he was also named assistant dean and assistant director of resident instruction for the college. He held these positions until his retirement from the university in 1990.
During his 20 years as a faculty member, Vasey was recognized by his students, the college, and the university for his excellence in the classroom. He was voted outstanding teacher four times by students in the division, which later became the School of Forestry and Wildlife Resources. He also received the College Certificate of Teaching Excellence from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. In 1976, he was inducted into the University Academy of Teaching Excellence.
According to Steve Pedigo, who earned a degree in forestry and wildlife from Virginia Tech in 1972, the reason that Vasey was so often recognized for his teaching was simply that he cared. “He had two things on his mind every day: the success of the school and the students,” Pedigo recalled. “He would bend over backward to help you understand and be successful.”
Professor Emeritus Wm. David Smith, a colleague, affirmed Vasey’s level of commitment, conveying that he “was very dedicated to teaching and advising undergraduate students in the School of Forestry and Wildlife Resources.”
Vasey was instrumental in establishing and serving as chief coordinator for the School of Forestry and Wildlife Resources’ firefighting program. In conjunction with the U.S. Forest Service, he developed what was the only program of its kind in the country at the time: a forest firefighting response team that provided students with real-world experience as well as financial support. In recognition of his work, Vasey received the President’s Award from the Virginia Wildlife Federation and the U.S. Forest Service Regional Award for Excellence in Fire Supervision.
While serving as assistant dean, Vasey was an efficient administrator of the undergraduate program, with responsibilities in the areas of advising, curriculum changes, and the awarding of scholarships. Throughout his career, he also served on and chaired numerous and varied committees within the college and university in such areas as curriculum, recruitment, orientation, promotion and tenure, student affairs, scheduling and registration, and student aid.
In recognition and celebration of his contributions, former students, colleagues, and friends created the Richard B. Vasey Endowed Scholarship in 1990. Numerous students have benefitted from these annual awards, which continue to provide financial assistance to students in the College of Natural Resources and Environment, which had its start as the School of Forestry and Wildlife Resources.
According to Pedigo, Vasey never stopped caring about his students. He relished his contact with former students and enjoyed receiving phone calls with news and updates. He also continued to care about the environment and work on his land after retiring from the university. “He had an ethic about the land and natural resources, and he never lost that,” noted Pedigo.
Vasey earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of California at Berkeley in 1960 and a doctorate from that same institution in 1970. He was preceded in death by his wife, Mildred. In honoring Vasey’s wishes, there will be no services.