Minnis Ridenour, whose four decades of service in key administrative roles at Virginia Tech helped transform it into a leading global land-grant university and who also advanced higher education across Virginia and the nation, will receive an honorary degree at Virginia Tech commencement ceremonies on May 11.
“Minnis’ devotion to Virginia Tech and selfless service are both historic and unsurpassed. Without question, he lives the university’s motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve),” said university President Tim Sands. “Early in his career, he made the conscious decision that few others would have made. He abandoned his plans to pursue a doctorate, though he surely could have earned one, because he chose to devote both his career and his life to Virginia Tech.
“By presenting him with this honorary degree, I hope it will convey the deep gratitude felt by Virginia Tech and many others in the national higher education community for all that Minnis has done on our behalf.”
Ridenour will be presented with an honorary Doctor of Letters degree during the University Commencement ceremony in Lane Stadium. It will mark only the 10th time in the university’s 146-year history that an individual will be distinguished with an honorary degree.
After completing his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the University of Tennessee, Ridenour joined Virginia Tech in 1974 as the university's budget director and chief business officer. He later served as vice president for finance until his promotion in 1987 to executive vice president.
In 2001, he was promoted to executive vice president and chief operating officer, the position he held until his formal retirement in 2004. Ridenour also served as executive vice president of the Virginia Tech Foundation and served on the boards of several university-related corporations.
At his 2004 retirement celebration, then-university-President Charles Steger said, “He is one of the most visionary people of our time. He has spent three decades in successively more influential roles practicing his craft, making us a better university and painting his vision on the fabric of American education.”
Ridenour supported five Virginia Tech presidents on all major university initiatives during their tenure, and his expertise in the field of finance enabled him to devise effective funding strategies to achieve countless initiatives that have greatly benefited Virginia Tech students and faculty while growing the reputation of the university.
In addition to his work for Virginia Tech, Ridenour was the architect or a key leader in the development of statewide higher education funding policies that have benefited all universities, including Virginia Tech.
Ridenour was an architect of the maintenance reserve fund that ensures a consistent revenue stream to maintain campus buildings. He was also instrumental in the establishment of the Higher Education Equipment Trust Fund, which provides scientific and computing equipment for institutions across the state.
He also worked with colleagues from the University of Virginia to obtain, for the first time, authorization from the state to issue variable-rate debt to allow institutions to pay for new facilities at a much lower cost than traditional debt structures. Today, that practice that is widely used by colleges and universities across the nation. And Ridenour was central to the Restructured Higher Education Financial and Administrative Operations Act of 2005, which provided greater operational autonomy for Virginia colleges and universities.
In recognition of his many contributions to Virginia Tech and higher education, Ridenour received in 2001 the most prestigious award of the National Association of College and University Business Officers, the Distinguished Business Officer Award.
Since his formal retirement in 2004, Ridenour has continued to serve Virginia Tech as Senior Fellow for Resource Development and has further cultivated his cherished role as a teacher and mentor. He has held an affiliated appointment in the School of Public and International Affairs in the College of Architecture and Urban Studies and teaches courses on financial management, mentors doctoral students, and has been the driving force in the development of a certificate in public and nonprofit financial management.
Throughout his career, Ridenour received endless support and encouragement from his wife, Louise, and their children, Brent and Leigh Anne Byrd. His impact on Virginia Tech also includes being a generous donor. He and Louise are members of the Ut Prosim Society, a select group of Virginia Tech’s most generous supporters, with their generosity helping numerous areas of the university.
Virginia Tech’s other nine honorary degrees have been presented to:
- (1907) John M. McBryde, Virginia Tech’s fifth president, received an honorary Doctor of Science degree.
- (1919) Col. Richard Henry Jordan received the honorary degree of civil engineering “for distinguished service on the construction of the Panama Canal.”
- (1929) Lawrence Priddy, a member of the Virginia Tech Class of 1897 who helped raise funds to build both the YMCA Building (building next to Torgersen Hall and McBride Hall) and War Memorial Gymnasium, received an honorary Doctor of Commercial Science degree
- (1987) Robert B. Pamplin Sr. and Robert B. Pamplin Jr. each received an honorary Doctor of Letters degree for outstanding service to and financial support of Virginia Tech.
- (2001) T. Marshall Hahn Jr. received an honorary Doctor of Science degree for his role in converting Virginia Tech from a small college to a major research university during his presidency.
- (2001) Robert B. Pamplin Jr. received an honorary bachelor’s degree.
- (2002) Clifton C. Garvin Jr., a member of the Class of 1943, received an honorary Doctor of Science degree for outstanding professional achievements, leadership, and support of Virginia Tech.
- (2016) Irving Linwood Peddrew III, the first African-American student to attend Virginia Tech and the first to attend any historically all-white four-year public institution in the 11 former states of the Confederacy, received an honorary Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering.